California Woman Thought to Have Had Fatal Heart Attack Is Now Believed to Be First US COVID-19 Fatality

Patricia Dowd

A 57-year-old California woman who was seemingly healthy when she died of a sudden heart attack in early February is now believed to be the first American to have died of the coronavirus.

Patricia Dowd was working from home in Santa Clara on Feb. 6 when her daughter found her dead. Dowd's death came as a shock to her family, who told the L.A. Times she "exercised routinely, watched her diet and took no medication."

Dowd was among three new coronavirus cases confirmed by Santa Clara County officials posthumously through tissue samples, Politico reported. All three victims reportedly had flu-like symptoms and died at home. Dowd and one of the other cases both died before Feb. 29, when Washington state reported what was believed to have been, at the time, the first death in the nation.

"What these deaths tell us is that we had community transmission probably to a significant degree far earlier than we had known," said Sara Cody, the county’s public health officer, in a Wednesday press conference. 

Governor Gavin Newsom is requesting coroners across the state to review deaths as far back as December to see if they were unknowingly positive for COVID-19, he said at the news conference.


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