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5 deaths attributed to COVID-19 days before first known death was reported in Washington state

On Feb. 29, 2020, Washington state health officials reported what was thought to be the first death from COVID-19 in the state and the United States.

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Editor's note: The above video originally aired March 11, 2022.

OLYMPIA, Wash. - Several deaths now attributed to COVID-19 occurred days before Feb. 28, 2020, the day health officials originally reported the first death took place in Washington state and the U.S., according to the Washington State Department of Health.

The first death attributed to COVID-19 in the state actually happened on Feb. 24, 2020, according to the department, four days before the originally reported date of Feb. 28.

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The death first reported on Feb. 29 was a King County man in his 50s who had an underlying health condition. The death was also the first reported death in the U.S., weeks before the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic. But now it's reported the death wasn't the first in the state or the country.

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In a statement Wednesday, the state Department of Health reported five people, all tested post mortem, died from COVID-19 by Feb. 28, 2020. The department said there was one death on Feb. 24, two deaths on Feb. 26, two on Feb. 28 and one death on Feb. 29, 2020.

Due to testing capabilities early on in the pandemic, the deaths weren't reported until March and May 2020, according to the department.

The department clarified that the man, originally reported as the first death in the state, had tested positive for COVID-19 on Feb. 28, which is why it was reported first.

"COVID-19 testing was extremely limited across the United States during the early months of the pandemic. It is likely that health departments nationwide undercounted deaths from COVID-19 infection during this time," said COVID-19 Public Information Officer Jess Nelson with the Washington State Department of Health.

The first recorded death in the U.S. has now been attributed to a 78-year-old Kansas woman, Lovell "Cookie" Brown, who died on Jan. 9, 2020, The Mercury News reported in 2021.

As of April 8, 2022, 6,172,307 people worldwide have died from COVID-19, according to the Johns Hopkins University of Medicine.

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