The coronavirus likely circulated in the Bay Area considerably earlier than previously thought.
Three autopsies in Santa Clara County have revealed COVID-19 killed two people in February and one in early March. Until now, a death in Washington state on Feb. 29 was believed to be the first fatality related to COVID-19 in the United States.
But according to the Santa Clara health department, a 57-year-old woman died on Feb. 6 and a 69-year-old man on Feb. 17 from COVID-19. On March 6, a 70-year-old man expired. All three individuals passed away at home.
"What these deaths tell us is that we had the community transmission probably to a significant degree far earlier than we had known," said Dr. Sara Cody, Santa Clara Health Officer.
The Santa Clara County medical examiner-coroner suspected the individuals, who exhibited flu-like symptoms, may have contracted the coronavirus even though they had not traveled to a country with an outbreak. The examiner sent autopsy tissue to the CDC for definitive testing, and yesterday those results arrived.