Snohomish County health officials probe positive blood tests

SEATTLE -- Two people in Washington state who recall being sick in December have since had blood tests showing they developed antibodies for the coronavirus, but health officials aren’t counting them in their official case counts.

The positive serology tests can’t determine whether the people had the coronavirus in December, weeks before the disease was officially detected in the United States. They may have been exposed after the first recorded case. One of the people had lunch with a hospital nurse in Kirkland, for example, site of a large outbreak in a nursing home.

“They are being considered ‘probable,’ ” Heather Thomas, a Snohomish Health District spokeswoman, told The Seattle Times. “However, they are not captured in our case counts from Jan. 20 forward.”

The two people are residents of Snohomish County, which has the second-highest number of confirmed cases in the state with more than 2,700.

On Jan. 20, a man in Snohomish County became the first person to test positive for COVID-19 in the U.S.

The man had been traveling in Wuhan, China, where the outbreak appears to have originated. He returned to the Seattle area on Jan. 15 and days later began showing symptoms.

If any Washington cases predated the first known case, there were probably very few that didn’t multiply, Dr. Jared Roach, a senior research scientist at the Institute for Systems Biology, a Seattle-based biomedical research firm, told the newspaper.