(NY DAILY NEWS) – Investigators are trying to figure out how 57-year-old Patricia Dowd, a “seemingly healthy” California woman whose Feb. 6 death was initially ruled a heart attack, contracted coronavirus and became the first known U.S. death.
Her cause of death was confirmed this week, making her the country’s first coronavirus victim, with her death occurring three weeks before what was initially thought to be the first such casualty.
Dowd, a manager for a semiconductor company in San Jose, came down with “flu-like symptoms” in late January, but appeared to rebound, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Then her daughter found her dead at home.
Dowd’s brother-in-law, Jeff Macias, told the Times that she traveled abroad “multiple times a year to different global locations” and had a trip to China booked for later this year.
“She was living the life she deserved,” her brother, Rick Cabello, told the Times.
Dowd’s death was confirmed late Tuesday to have been related to coronavirus, which she had not been tested for until her autopsy. Two other Santa Clara County deaths, one on Feb. 17 and one on March 6, were also linked to coronavirus.
“These three individuals died at home during a time when very limited testing was available only through the CDC,” the county’s health department said in a statement. “Testing criteria set by the CDC at the time restricted testing to only individuals with a known travel history and who sought medical care for specific symptoms.”
Her death shifts the U.S. outbreak timeline three weeks earlier than the country’s previous first reported fatality, which occurred in Kirkland, Wash., on Feb. 29.
Santa Clara County Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody said Wednesday that all three newly reported cause of deaths proves that coronavirus was in the area long before anyone knew.
“We presume that each of them represent community transmission and that there was some significant level of virus circulating in our community in early February … and who knows how much earlier,” she said, according to the Times.