Kansas great-grandmother Lovell "Cookie" Brown died on Jan. 9, 2020. Originally, her death certificate cited "chronic obstructive lung disease," but it has since been updated to include COVID-19, making her the first official coronavirus death in the U.S.
The Mercury News reports that Brown's family only learned of the amendment to her death certificate this week. Previously, the first recorded COVID death in the U.S. was Feb. 6, 2020.
Peaches Foster, Brown's daughter, had wondered for a while if her mother had died from COVID. It was confirmed this week when she read "COVID-19 pneumonia" on her mother's revised death certificate — she "burst into tears," reports The Mercury News. It's still unclear where or how Brown may have contracted the virus.
John Eplee, a Kansas state lawmaker and physician, told Mercury News that Brown's case suggests the virus was "percolating" in the U.S. "before experts realized it." Similarly, an investigation found that five other U.S. death certificates from Jan. 2020 had been amended to include COVID-19. Investigations like these spark questions about just how many unreported COVID cases and deaths there may be.
In May, University of Washington researchers analyzed COVID death rates and found that the roughly 600,000 death count in the U.S. is likely closer to one million, U.S. News reports. Globally, they attribute 6.9 million deaths to the coronavirus instead of the reported 3.2 million. Yes, you read that correctly — they believe twice as many people have died.
COVID-19 has apparently been sweeping through the U.S. since the very beginning of 2020 and no one knew. "I think this will go on forever," Eplee predicted. "We'll be gone, and we'll still be speculating about how and where it started." Read more at The Mercury News.