Santa Clara woman's heart 'burst open' from coronavirus, autopsy shows


A Santa Clara woman who was recently declared the first U.S. death related to coronavirus suffered a massive heart attack, according to an exclusive report by The Chronicle.

Patricia Dowd of Santa Clara, Calif., died of COVID-19 on Feb. 6, several weeks before the United States declared its first novel coronavirus death, according to earlier autopsy results.

According to a Bay Area forensic pathologist contacted by The Chronicle to review the autopsy results, Dowd's heart "burst open."

"There's something abnormal about the fact that perfectly normal heart has burst open," said Dr. Judy Melinek. "The heart has ruptured. Normal hearts don't rupture.

"This heart ruptured or tore open because of an infection of the heart muscle caused by the coronavirus," Melinek said.