You already know the story—in December of 2019, doctors notice a patient has a dry cough, fever, and has lost her sense of taste. Her ailment is later recognized as a novel coronavirus, and within months, the world is going into lockdown.
But here’s the thing.
The woman was an American, in an American hospital. This all took place 11,600 miles away from Wuhan, China.
Death in a Kansas hospital
The woman, Lovell “Cookie” Brown, became increasingly ill through the month of December, 2019, in Leavenworth, Kansas, in the central United States. She was an elderly lady, 78, who never travelled except between her home and her doctor, according to family members.
Mrs Brown developed a dry cough, fever and body aches. “And at Christmas, when her family brought her favorite foods to the nursing home, Brown complained that everything tasted bland,” said Harriet Blair Rowan, a reporter from the Mercury News. “The cabbage needed salt. The scratch-made spaghetti sauce was off. The water tasted of bleach.”
Mrs Brown remained ill through December and died on January 9th. Her death certificate did not mention Covid.
Death certificates quietly changed
But in May of this year, it was quietly changed, without the family being informed, and a new one was issued, passed on to family members a few days ago.
“Why is still a mystery,” said Ms. Rowan, the reporter. “Her death is now included in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s official record of US Covid deaths, but the agency wouldn’t comment further.”
An investigation by the Bay Area News Group recently revealed that at least five death certificates from January 2020 in five states — California, Oklahoma, Alabama, Wisconsin and Kansas — had been amended in recent months to include COVID-19 as a factor, with Mrs Brown’s being the earliest.
Change of schedule
“The puzzling revisions not only appear to turn the clock back on the virus’ arrival in the U.S. but also suggest that it had surfaced much sooner in America’s heartland, far beyond the country’s early coastal hotspots,” said Ms Rowan.
This confirms the virus was spreading in the United States in December of 2019.
When did Covid emerge in China? It’s hard to pin down an exact date, because symptoms were assumed to be pneumonia until Chinese doctors recognized it as a new coronavirus at the end of December, 2019.
While there is speculation that cases may have existed in November, the WHO and Chinese authorities identified a cluster of 41 patients on December 8 in Wuhan as the likely first batch of confirmed Covid-19 cases.
And it was on December 31, doctors officially reported to the WHO the existence of a new virus with symptoms of pneumonia. The first confirmed Covid death in China was on January 9, the same date Mrs Brown died in Kansas.
All this adds to evidence that the virus was circulating in several parts of the world long before it was identified as a novel coronavirus by doctors in China on December 31.
Meanwhile, reporters are puzzled about the opaque nature of the way in which a Kansas grandmother just become the first U.S. Covid death. “Not even her family knew until this week,” said Ms Rowan.