Two autopsy results reveal deaths that resulted from the coronavirus during early to mid February, three weeks before the first known U.S. death was recorded from the deadly virus. These two deaths occurred February 6 and 17 in Northern California’s Santa Clara County. Previously, the first known death from the coronavirus was recorded on February 29th, in Kirkland, Washington, a major hotspot in the U.S. outbreak of COVID-19.
These findings help experts to know exactly how early this virus was actually spreading. Dr. Sara Cody, the county’s chief medical officer, states to New York Times the two California residents who died from COVID-19 didn’t have any known travel to China, or anywhere else they could possibly have been exposed to the virus. This lead them to believe the two have caught the virus through the community transmission.
Dr. Ashish K. Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, tells CNN, “Somebody who died on February 6, they probably contracted that virus early to mid-January. It takes at least two to three weeks from the time you contract the virus and you die from it. If they did not contract coronavirus through travel abroad, that also is significant. That means there was community spread happening in California as early as mid-January, if not earlier than that,” Jha said. He emphasized the importance of this new finding.
Jha stated it’s important for us to now re-trace our steps as far as back as January and early December, to find out when exactly the virus began to infect American soil.
At the time of these deaths, virus testing was limited to those who had traveled and those with certain symptoms. Both people died in their homes, and had their tissues tested for Coronavirus, as did another who died in early March (and also tested positive).
This news essentially means that the Coronavirus U.S. numbers may be much higher than we think.