First known U.S. coronavirus death was weeks earlier than previously thought

by Laura Mize · Apr 22nd, 2020 10:05 am
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America's first known coronavirus death occurred on February 6 in California's Santa Clara County, according to information released Tuesday by the county medical examiner — weeks earlier than previously thought.

A February 29 death in Washington state was previously believed to be the nation's initial COVID-19 fatality.

The county also reported that a February 17 death, previously believed to be unrelated, was due to coronavirus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found the virus in tissue samples from both individuals. Both people died at their homes at a time when testing for the virus was limited and only performed on people with specific symptoms and travel history.

Recent studies in Massachusetts and California communities have shown that significant portions of the populations in those areas already have coronavirus antibodies that are only produced when a person has already had the disease. In Santa Clara County, as much as 4.2% of the population is believed to have already been infected.


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