California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) directed every county in his state on Wednesday to reexamine the autopsies they carried out as far back as December to determine whether COVID-19 had reached California even earlier than discovered on Tuesday.
During Newsom’s press briefing, the governor said that he ordered the counties to do so in order to reach a “deeper understanding of when this pandemic really started to impact Californians” after Santa Clara County public health officials announced on Tuesday that two people had died from the virus earlier than what was previously believed to be the first COVID-19 death in the U.S.
“When [the virus spread] occurred is important forensic information, profoundly significant in understanding the epidemiology of this disease, all of those things are brought to bear with more clarity and light,” Newsom told reporters.
“Not only because of this specific announcement, but I imagine subsequent announcements that may be made by similar efforts all across the state of California,” he continued.
According to the Santa Clara officials, the two individuals had died in their homes in early/mid February but had not been recorded as having the virus due to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) restrictive requirements for COVID-19 testing at the time.
“As the Medical Examiner-Coroner continues to carefully investigate deaths throughout the county, we anticipate additional deaths from COVID-19 will be identified,” they said.