Officials in Santa Clara County, California, announced last night that at least two deaths in early February can now be attributed to COVID-19. Until now, the first US fatality from the pandemic coronavirus was assumed to be in the Seattle area on Feb 28, but postmortem testing on deaths from Feb 6 and Feb 17 now confirm that COVID-19 was spreading in the San Francisco Bay area weeks earlier than previously thought. Both fatalities in Santa Clara County had no travel history, and likely acquired COVID-19 through community spread. Initially, Santa Clara officials had marked the first death from COVID-19 in their county on Mar 9, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. In February, Santa Clara County became the first site of confirmed community spread of COVID-19 in the United States, which up until that point had reported only travel-related cases. The new information on COVID-19 deaths suggests the virus had been spreading for at least 2 to 3 weeks in Santa Clara prior to early February. Even though cities and regions in California were some of the first in the country to shelter in place—by mid-March—those orders likely came 4 to 6 weeks after the virus was seeded in communities. To date, California has 33,261 COVID-19 cases, including 1,268 fatalities. California has the fifth most US cases but has largely prevented the kind of widespread outbreaks seen in New York and Massachusetts. In total, the country has tracked 822,239 cases and 41,683 deaths due to COVID-19, according to a dashboard maintained by the New York Times.

 

Credit: iStock, Paolo_Toffanin

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