California governor orders autopsies back to December to find out how long coronavirus has been in the state

California governor orders autopsies back to December to find out how long coronavirus has been in the state
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California Gov. Gavin NewsomGavin NewsomSenior citizens deserve better than to be left in isolation Supreme Court denies California church's challenge to state restrictions Supreme Court denies Illinois churches' request for action after state eases restrictions MORE (D) ordered medical examiners and coroners across the state to review autopsies dating back to December to “help guide a deeper understanding of when this pandemic really started to impact Californians.”

“When this 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 at a daily press briefing Wednesday. “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.”

Newsom's announcement came after officials in Santa Clara County said late Tuesday that first American deaths from coronavirus occurred weeks earlier than initially thought. 

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Autopsies on two people who died in early and mid-February showed they had been infected by the virus. Until the new revelations, the first COVID-19 death had been identified as a man in his 50s in Washington state who died Feb. 29.

Jeffrey Smith, a doctor who serves as county executive for Santa Clara County, said at a briefing earlier this month that the virus could have been “freewheeling” in California for “a lot longer than we first believed,” the Los Angeles Times reported at the time. 

“This wasn’t recognized because we were having a severe flu season,” Smith continued. “Symptoms are very much like the flu. If you got a mild case of COVID, you didn’t really notice.”

Newsom also announced Wednesday that California now has 35,396 confirmed positive cases of the coronavirus and 1,331 reported deaths. Another 86 people died of COVID-19 on Tuesday, marking a 6.8 percent increase over the previous day, Newsom said.