Additional deaths show earlier spread of COVID-19 than previously known

Late Tuesday, Santa Clara County health officials released some startling information, showing COVID-19 was spreading earlier than previously known.

The county’s medical examiner-coroner identified three county residents who died in February and early March of the virus.

It had been previously thought that the first COVID-19 related death occurred in the county on March 9. This new information says deaths on February 6, February 17, and March 6 were all from COVID-19.

That would suggest that the virus has been circulating in the community far longer than expected. The February 6 death would also be the first death in the United States from the virus.

“As far as we understand, none of these cases had a significant travel history,” said Dr. Sara Cody, the County’s top health official, at a press conference Wednesday.

“We presume that each of them represent community transmission and that there was some significant level of virus circulating in our community in early February,” Cody continued.

The individuals, two men and one woman, who died in February both passed away at home. None of the three deceased individuals were tested for the virus before they died.

The County released a statement announcing the deaths, with a notation about the lack of available testing in early February.

“These three individuals died at home during a time when very limited testing was available only through the CDC. Testing criteria set by the CDC at the time restricted testing to only individuals with a known travel history and who sought medical care for specific symptoms.”