California Governor Gavin Newsom (D) has ordered coroners across the state to review deaths “back as far as December” after officials in Santa Clara County found that two residents died with coronavirus in early and mid-February, well before the first officially recorded coronavirus death in the country, which was previously believed to have occurred in Washington State on February 29.
During the press conference, Newsom revealed that the order is designed to “dig even deeper” into other deaths that could have been missed, with the goal of helping to create an “understanding of when this pandemic really started to impact Californians directly.”
“When this occurred is important forensic information, profoundly significant in terms of understanding the epidemiology of this disease,” said Newsom.
“All of those things are brought to bear with more clarity and light, not only because of this specific announcement,” said Newsom, referring to Santa Clara County, but also “subsequent announcements that may be made by similar efforts all across the state of California.”
As The Daily Wire previously reported, officials in Santa Clara County announced the timeline-shifting revelation late Tuesday evening, noting that the first newly discovered death was on February 6 and occurred over one month before March 9, the date of what was thought to be the county’s first death.
“The Medical Examiner-Coroner performed autopsies on two individuals who died at home on February 6, 2020 and February 17, 2020. Samples from the two individuals were sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” said the county in a statement. “Today, the Medical Examiner-Coroner received confirmation from the CDC that tissue samples from both cases are positive for SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19).”
The Associated Press reports that the person who died on February 6 was a 57-year-old woman, and that the later death was a 69-year-old man. Neither of the victims had traveled to China recently, and it’s unknown if they had pre-existing medical conditions.
“The virus was freewheeling in our community and probably has been here for quite some time,” Dr. Jeff Smith, chief executive of Santa Clara County and a physician himself, said at a recent county briefing, reports The Los Angeles Times.
In the Tuesday evening press release, county officials say that the victims “died at home during a time when very limited testing was available only through the CDC,” and note that the CDC had “restricted testing to only individuals with a known travel history and who sought medical care for specific symptoms.”
“It shifts everything weeks earlier, extends geographic involvement, (and) further shows how our inability to test let this outbreak loose,” Dr. Eric Topol, head of the Scripps Research Translational Institute in San Diego, told AP in an email.
A Washington Post investigation recently discovered that the “rollout of coronavirus tests” in the United States was hindered by incompetence at the Centers for Disease Control, which shipped out an initial batch of testing kits that were contaminated during the manufacturing process at the centers’ central laboratory.
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