A seemingly healthy 57-year-old San Jose woman has emerged as the first person in the US to have died of the coronavirus — with her Feb. 6 death coming almost three weeks before two fatalities were reported, according to a report.
Patricia Dowd, a manager for a semiconductor company, died suddenly after she had appeared to recover from flu-like symptoms, the LA Times reported. Her death was at first believed to be from a heart attack.
But this week, authorities told her family that she tested positive for COVID-19, making her the first confirmed fatality from the illness in the nation.
Previously, the first documented fatality was reported on Feb. 29 in Kirkland, Washington, a Seattle suburb, though officials later attributed two Feb. 26 deaths to the bug.
Santa Clara County’s health officer said the deaths of three people in the county — Dowd’s, another on Feb. 17 and a third of March 6 — were evidence that the virus arrived in the Bay Area far earlier than expected, the LA paper reported.
“None of these cases had a significant travel history,” Dr. Sara Cody said Wednesday of the three deaths.
“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.”
Dowd’s relatives told the news outlet that she became unusually sick in late January with flu-like symptoms, but had improved and was corresponding from home with a colleague at 8 a.m. Feb. 6.
Roughly two hours later, her daughter found her dead.
Dowd’s brother-in-law Jeff Macias told the LA Times that she had planned to travel to China later this year and traveled abroad “multiple times a year to different global locations.”
“Where did this come from if it wasn’t her traveling?” Macias said. “Patricia may not be the first. It’s just the earliest we have found so far.”
He added: “Let’s keep looking so we know the extent of it — that’s for the greater good, for everyone else and my family included.”
Rick Cabello, Dowd’s older brother, said she didn’t smoke and was in good health.
“She was an athlete in her high school days, she was always active,” Cabello told CNN.
Dowd was “hardworking, loyal and caring,” he told the LA Times. “She was the energy person in her large network of friends. She was everybody’s rock.”