A man found dead in his house in early March. A woman who fell sick in mid-February and later died.
These early COVID-19 deaths in the San Francisco Bay Area suggest that the novel coronavirus had established itself in the community long before health officials started looking for it. The lag time has had dire consequences, allowing the virus to spread unchecked before social distancing rules went into effect.
“The virus was freewheeling in our community and probably has been here for quite some time,” Dr. Jeff Smith, a physician who is the chief executive of Santa Clara County government, told county leaders in a recent briefing.
How long? A study out of Stanford suggests a dramatic viral surge in February.
But Smith on Friday said data collected by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, local health departments and others suggest it was “a lot longer than we first believed” — most likely since “back in December.”