The coronavirus may have started spreading in California as early as December – months before the state blocked and adopted social distancing measures after reporting its first confirmed case, officials said.
Santa Clara County Executive Director Dr. Jeff Smith says the severity of the flu season has prompted healthcare professionals to believe that patients were suffering from the flu due to the similarity of some of the symptoms.
In reality, however, a handful of sick Californians who went to the doctor earlier this year may have been among the first to be carriers of the coronavirus.
“The virus has been circulating freely in our community and has probably been around for a while,” said Smith, a doctor, to county officials during a recent briefing.
The inability of authorities to detect the virus earlier has allowed it to spread uncontrolled in California and across the country.
Woman serving in the California National Guard’s temperature taken in Sacramento Friday
“It was not recognized because we were experiencing a severe flu season,” Smith told the Los Angeles Times.
“The symptoms are very similar to the flu. If you have a mild case of COVID, you haven’t really noticed.
“You didn’t even go to the doctor.
“The doctor may not even have done it because they thought it was the flu.” “
At the end of February, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention launched an investigation after a Californian patient fell down with a coronavirus, even if this person did not go to any known hotspot or contact someone who did it.
It was considered the first known case in the United States of a person who fell ill with COVID-19 due to “community spread” – suggesting that the virus had been in the country for longer than expected. .
Santa Clara County reported its first two COVID-19 cases about a week before the federal government approved the emergency tests on February 4, according to the Times.
The two cases have been reported in people who had just returned from a trip to Wuhan, China, where the first large-scale epidemic occurred.
Two other California residents – one in Orange County and the other in Los Angeles County – also tested positive after returning from Wuhan in late January.
The latter were reportedly the first confirmed cases in the state.
Officials say the bay region is particularly vulnerable given the large number of travelers from China and other parts of Asia.
New York City, which has reported the most cases in the country, is said to have been exposed to the virus for the first time since it was introduced into the region by tourists from European countries, including Italy and the Spain.
In January and February, health officials in California were unable to test.
A lone surfer is walking along an enclosed area of Newport Beach, California, on Friday. California officials believe coronavirus may have started spreading in the state as early as December
The CDC then allowed a few selected health services to begin limited testing on those who were ill or exposed to someone known to have COVID-19.
The federal government of the day was primarily concerned with the people on board cruise ships.
On February 4, Japanese authorities ordered a 14-day quarantine of the cruise ship Diamond Princess, which was docked in the port of Yokohama.
Hundreds of people on board tested positive for COVID-19 and at least a dozen died.
At the time, the Diamond Princess was considered to be the largest known group of coronavirus cases outside of China.
In late February, after the first known case of spread in the community was reported in California, doctors began testing others with similar symptoms.
They found that most of these cases were also likely the result of local spread.
“When public health [officials] tried to trace the onset of the disease … we could not find, more specifically, a contact, “Smith told the county supervisors.
“This means the virus is already in the community – not, as the CDC suspected, like only in China and spreads through contact with China. “
Stanford University conducted a study of 2,800 patients with respiratory illnesses from January until the end of February.
The study concluded that only two of these cases were due to COVID-19, but none of the patients would be qualified to be tested according to CDC guidelines.
Last month, the CDC and the California Department of Public Health began community surveillance of COVID-19 in Santa Clara County.
The study found that 8% of patients who sought urgent care in a medical facility were infected with a coronavirus, which leads researchers to believe that there was a spike in community spread during the month of February.
Shortly after the joint CDC and state study, Santa Clara and five other Bay Area counties ordered residents to take shelter there.
California officials reported the first death of COVID-19 on March 4 when a 71-year-old man who had recently traveled on a cruise ship to Mexico was found dead in Placer County.
Two days later, San Jose authorities found a 70-year-old man dead at his home.
The Santa Clara County Coroner’s office later discovered that the man was infected with COVID-19.
California authorities announced the death of 68-year-old Azar Ahrabi on March 9.
Ahrabi fell ill in February and requested to be tested for COVID-19, but was refused because she did not meet the criteria prescribed by the federal government at the time.
This is because the authorities could not determine the source of his infection.
She was put into an induced coma and intubated with a ventilator. Doctors then treated her with an antimalarial drug, Remdesivir, but her liver started to fail and her body refused dialysis.
Her son Amir was not allowed to see his mother at the time of his death.