First known COVID-19 death in US occurred on January 9, 2020
Lovell Brown from Kansas who passed away on January 9, 2020 was found to be the first COVID-19 death in the US, The Mercury News reported, citing data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The death of the 78-year-old grandmother from Leavenworth, Kansas took place on the same day when central China's Wuhan, which is 7,200 miles away, confirmed the first death from a pneumonia with an unknown cause that would later be identified as COVID-19.
Notably, in her final months, Brown rarely left home other than for medical appointments for her diabetes and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease at a local hospital, The Mercury News reported.
Her original death certificate said she had died only from a stroke and chronic obstructive lung disease. This May, her doctor quietly added "COVID-19 pneumonia" as one of the causes of her death. Her case was included in the CDC's official record of COVID-19 deaths.
What led to the change in her death certificate remains unclear, but Robert Anderson, chief of the Mortality Statistics Branch at the NCHS, said certifiers are reluctant to amend death certificates unless there's a good reason to do so.
For more than a year, the death of a San Jose woman named Patricia Dowd on February 6, 2020 was considered America's first COVID-19 death. Now the death of Lovell Brown has effectively rewritten the timeline of when the novel coronavirus emerged in the US.
As a matter of fact, in the weeks before her death at Providence Medical Center in Kansas City, Brown suffered a splitting headache, a raspy cough, a fever, diarrhea, body aches and other symptoms that the world would soon find too familiar, The Mercury News reported, citing her family members.
And at Christmas, when her family brought her favorite foods to her, Brown complained that everything tasted bland.
John Swartzberg, an infectious disease expert and professor emeritus at UC Berkeley, said the symptoms and timeline of her illness fit the usual pattern of COVID-19.
John Eplee, a Kansas state lawmaker and family physician who has treated COVID-19 patients, said Brown's death suggests the virus was percolating here before experts realized it.
"I think there are other cases like this case in Leavenworth," he was quoted as saying. "They're just not known at this time."