3 COVID-19 deaths in Santa Clara County occurred earlier than first thought

Santa Clara County confirmed on Wednesday that three people died from COVID-19 earlier than the county's first reported death. 

Santa Clara County Public Health Director Dr. Sara Cody announced on Wednesday that the three deaths occurred at a time when testing for the virus was very limited. Cody said one person died on Feb. 6, another on Feb. 17 and a third on Mar. 6. Originally, public health officials thought that the first death associated with COVID-19 in the county had occurred on Mar. 9. 

It wasn't until the Medical Examiner-Coroner received confirmation on Tuesday that the patients' tissue samples sent to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 which is the virus that causes COVID-19. 

The early Santa Clara County deaths in February also mark the nation's first COVID-19 death. Before, the first U.S. death from COVID-19 had been reported on Feb. 29 in Kirkland, Washington. 

Cody said what those early deaths mean is that the virus was circulating and spreading in the community far earlier than first thought. Adding that "it highlights the importance of shelter-in-place and protecting the community and preventing hospitalizations and deaths."

The county public health director said what is apparent is that COVID-19 will be around for some time, especially so because there is no vaccine.