Several COVID deaths in state happened before first was announced

SEATTLE — The state Department of Health has confirmed at least four other Washingtonians died from COVID complications before or on Feb. 28, 2020 — the date the first known death in Washington and the U.S. was announced.

In a recent review of the state’s earliest COVID-19 deaths, three people who died before the initial announcement were from long-term care facility Life Care Center of Kirkland, the site of the first known U.S. coronavirus outbreak, The Seattle Times reported.

State health officials now believe the first person to die in Washington was a Snohomish County woman in her 30s.

That death happened on Feb. 24, 2020. The woman had a travel history and underlying health conditions, according to Kari Bray, spokesperson for Snohomish County’s public health department.

But little other information is publicly available as her death wasn’t investigated by the Snohomish County Medical Examiner’s Office.

Bob Anderson, the chief of mortality statistics at a branch of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said recently it has not been uncommon for authorities to have missed some of the country’s early COVID-19 deaths.

“Doctors often didn’t know what they were looking at and didn’t have a lot of experience with COVID-19,” he said.

While a few missed deaths likely won’t make a big difference from a public health standpoint, he said, it’s important to keep a record as accurate as possible.

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