Mysterious deaths of infants, children raise questions about how early coronavirus hit California


A cluster of mysterious deaths, some involving infants and children, is under scrutiny amid questions of whether the novel coronavirus lurked in California months before it was first detected. But eight weeks after Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a statewide hunt for undetected early COVID-19 deaths, the effort remains hobbled by bureaucracy and testing limits.

Among those awaiting answers is Maribeth Ortiz, whose adult son, Jeremiah DeLap, died Jan. 7 in Orange County while visiting his parents. He had been healthy, suffering on a Friday from what he thought was food poisoning, and found dead in bed the following Tuesday, drowned by fluid in his lungs.

China didn’t announce its first COVID-19 death until four days later. But by DeLap’s Feb. 1 funeral service, frightening stories of a deadly new virus in Wuhan dominated the news.

“Everybody that knew him when they were talking to me after this all started would say, ‘Do you think he died from that?’” Ortiz said.

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