Patricia “Trish” Dowd a 57-year-old, seemingly healthy mom died on February 6 in San Jose, California. She’s now thought to be the first known victim of the novel coronavirus in the United States.
Dowd’s death predates the previously presumed first death that occurred in Washington state on February 29. Dowd’s death came three weeks before and presents new clues about just how widespread the virus was before officials took action.
The Centers for Disease Control confirmed that two people had died from the virus in early February.
The Santa Clara Medical Examiner-Coroner said Thursday that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed that two people died of the virus in early February. One victim was a 57-year-old woman who died on February 6, and the other was a 69-year-old man who died on February 17, the county said. While the CDC did not name the victims, Dowd’s family members confirmed that she was one of them to the Los Angeles Times.
Neither of the two victims who died in February had been tested for the virus at the time of their deaths because testing capacity was limited.
The coroner’s office suspected the deaths might have been caused by COVID-19.
“Because there was continued suspicion by the medical examiner that these deaths were caused by Covid-19, the medical examiner sent autopsy tissue to the CDC for definitive testing,” the coroner’s office said in a statement.
Dowd died at her San Jose home on February 6. She felt she was through the worst of the sickness and had resumed work at her home. She was employed as a manager for the semiconductor company Lam Research, the Times reported.
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Dowd’s family says she was in good health.
Members of Dowd’s family explained that she exercised regularly, maintained a healthy diet, and was not on any medications.
Dowd’s brother, Rick Cabello spoke with CNN and said his sister didn’t smoke and was healthy. “She was an athlete in her high school days, she was always active,” he explained.
Her sudden death was a shock to family members. She reportedly suffered from flu-like symptoms for several days but appeared to have recovered. According to CNN, Dowd had been in touch with a colleague at 8 AM on the day of her death. She was found dead just two hours later. The family believed it was a heart attack.
“She was everybody’s rock.”
“She was the energy person in her large network of friends,” Cabello said. “She was everybody’s rock.”
Cabello told the LA Times that Dowd was “hardworking, loyal and caring,” and had a daughter who recently graduated college.
In a tribute wall set up for Dowd by the Cusimano Family Colonial Mortuary, a coworker wrote, “I’ll always remember the kindness and generosity of her spirit. She was genuinely caring and had an amazing energy.”
Dowd was a frequent traveler but there’s no evidence that her travel history exposed her to the virus.
Dowd traveled abroad frequently for her work and was planning to go to China this year.
Dr. Sara Cody, Santa Clara County’s chief medical officer, did note that at the time of her death, she did not have any travel history to China or anywhere else that would have exposed her to the virus, according to The New York Times.
It’s believed that Dowd’s case is one of community spread. The CDC describes community spread occurring when “people have been infected with the virus in an area, including some who are not sure how or where they became infected.”
As of Thursday afternoon, when we learned about Dowd’s identity, the number of coronavirus cases in California had reached 37,866, and the number of deaths stood at 1,469, according to The New York Times. In the United States, there were at least 852,000 cases and 43,500 deaths.
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