Coronavirus Death Hit U.S. Weeks Earlier Than First Thought

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The coronavirus caused two deaths in California in early and mid-February, new tests show, suggesting the pathogen was circulating in the U.S. weeks earlier than health officials believed.

Two residents of Santa Clara County, California who died at home on Feb. 6 and Feb. 17 were infected with the virus, according to astatement Tuesday from the local medical examiner’s office.

Previously, the first report of a U.S. death from Covid-19 had come on Feb. 29 inWashington state. Days afterward, two earlier deaths in the state were attributed to the viral illness, both occurring on Feb. 26.

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President Donald Trump’s administration has been under fire for its early response to the virus after the World Health Organization declared an international health emergency at the end of January. Trump has said he responded effectively by limiting travel from China.

A third person in Santa Clara county died of Covid-19 on March 6, three days before its first death was originally thought to have occurred, officials said. All three people died at home at a time when testing was limited and only available through the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the county said.

Officials said that at the time, testing was restricted to individuals with a known travel history who sought medical care for specific symptoms and that they now expect to identify additional deaths from Covid-19.

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