First known US coronavirus fatality did not show signs of virus, father claims

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A California woman whose death in early February is now said to be the first known COVID-19 fatality in the U.S. did not show any signs of the virus before dying, her father claims.

“There were no symptoms, nothing,” the father of Patricia Dowd, a San Jose woman who died Feb. 6 and tested positive for the novel virus posthumously, told the San Francisco Chronicle. The publication withheld the man’s name over privacy concerns.

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Dowd’s family was initially told the 57-year-old otherwise healthy woman’s death was due to a “massive” heart attack that “likely killed her before she hit the floor,” the Chronicle reported.

Dowd, who worked as an auditor at the semiconductor company Lam Research, traveled a lot for her job and underwent regular health screenings, her father said.

“Because she had to travel, [her company] had her get checkups by doctors. So her blood pressure and everything was fine,” he said.

Dowd did not take any medication, exercised routinely, and ate healthfully, the Los Angeles Times reported, noting that she reportedly showed some “flu-like” symptoms in late January but had seemingly improved before her death early the next month.

She was working from home and was communicating with coworkers just hours before she died.

The news comes after Santa Clara County officials announced Tuesday that three people who died at home during February and March tested positive for COVID-19 posthumously and are now believed to be the earliest coronavirus-related fatalities in the country. The deaths took place on Feb. 6, Feb. 17 and March 6, officials said.

Though Dowd traveled for work, “None of these cases had a significant travel history,” Santa Clara County Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody said earlier this week, according to the Los Angeles Times.

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"We presume that each of them represents 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 added.

Previously, a man in Washington state who died on Feb. 29 was believed that the first U.S. victim of the virus.