Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Officials Now Say The First Coronavirus Death In The US Was Actually In Early February

Officials are expecting to identify more COVID-19 cases from people who have died.
Two people who died in February in California's Santa Clara County had the coronavirus — weeks earlier than the country's first previously known coronavirus-related death was reported.

Tissue samples from autopsies performed on two people who died on Feb. 6 and Feb. 17 respectively showed that both individuals had COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, the county medical examiner said Tuesday.

Previously, the first coronavirus-related death in the country was known to be on Feb. 29, when a man in his 50s died in Washington state.

The two people in Santa Clara County died at home, officials said, "during a time when very limited testing was available only through the CDC." The county coroner sent their tissue samples to the CDC and were informed Tuesday that both had COVID-19.

The new dates call into question just how early the coronavirus began to spread in the US, and how many people had contracted and potentially died of COVID-19 before testing became more widespread.

As of Wednesday morning, there have been more than 813,000 COVID-19 cases and 44,673 deaths in the country. But those numbers aren't widely believed to be accurate; health care workers have said there are many more people dying of COVID-19 than what is being reported.

The Trump administration has been criticized for failing to act earlier to stem the spread of the virus, despite top officials being warned about the coronavirus threat months before the first confirmed case in the US. Even as cases across the country climbed, the US lagged far behind in testing, partly due to the CDC's stringent testing requirements and botched test kits.

Santa Clara County officials cited the CDC's initial narrow testing criteria in their statement Tuesday. As the county coroner continues investigating deaths, officials said, "We anticipate additional deaths from COVID-19 will be identified."

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