• Santa Clara County, California, announced on Tuesday that two people who died in their homes in February were later confirmed positive for the new coronavirus. 
  • This data suggests that the first United States death occurred at least three weeks earlier than previously thought. 
  • The US recorded its first official death from COVID-19 on February 28.
  • Santa Clara County explained in its press release that the new confirmed COVID-19 deaths were not detected sooner because the individuals “died at home during a time when very limited testing was available only through the CDC.” 
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Santa Clara County, California, announced on Tuesday that two people who died in their homes in February tested positive for the new coronavirus, suggesting that the first US death occurred weeks earlier than previously thought. 

In a statement on Tuesday, officials from Santa Clara County said that the medical examiner tested three individuals who died in their homes for coronavirus. One person died on February 6, another on February 17, and a third on March 6.

According to the statement, the tests were sent to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who confirmed on Tuesday that all three patients tested positive for coronavirus. 

The US initially recorded its first official death from COVID-19 on February 28 — a man in his 50s in Washington state. The new data suggests that the country’s first death occurred in Santa Clara County three weeks prior. 

California confirmed its first coronavirus death on March 4 — an elderly patient in Placer County, near Sacramento. Santa Clara County initially recorded its first death on March 9 — a woman in her 60s. 

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Santa Clara County explained in its press release that the new confirmed COVID-19 deaths were not detected sooner because the individuals “died at home during a time when very limited testing was available only through the CDC.” 

They explained that at the time, the CDC has restricted COVID-19 testing only to individuals with a known travel history or those who reported specific symptoms associated with the illness. 

“As the Medical Examiner-Coroner continues to carefully investigate deaths throughout the county, we anticipate additional deaths from COVID-19 will be identified,” the statement said. 

The US has been criticized for its slow testing per capita compared to other countries. The delay was initially blamed on test kit shortages and potentially faulty kits

The US Food and Drug Administration announced an expansion of its distribution of coronavirus testing kits on February 29, allowing hundreds of labs and hospitals around the country to conduct testing that had previously been limited by the CDC. 

Trump said during a Monday briefing that the US has now tested more than 4 million people for the coronavirus, completing 150,000 tests a day.

A comparison of testing per capita in six countries shows the US has finally caught up with other nations in its testing capacity, though it trailed behind other countries for weeks.

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