Daughter of Patricia Dowd, the First U.S. COVID-19 Victim, Breaks Her Silence

'She was my best friend. I went to her for everything,' Kaila said. 'All my problems. If I needed a hug, she gave the best hugs.'

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It was just over one year ago when San Jose’s Patricia Dowd died of COVID-19, the first confirmed coronavirus death in the U.S. On Thursday, for the first time, her daughter sat down for a broadcast interview with NBC Bay Area’s Ian Cull to talk about that day, her life and the toll of the pandemic.

Kaila Dowd was Patricia’s daughter and only child.

“She was my best friend. I went to her for everything,” Kaila said. “All my problems. If I needed a hug, she gave the best hugs.”

NBC Bay Area also spoke with Patricia’s sister, Leticia Cabello Macias, socially distant in a ventilated room. She said Patricia, who went by Trish, started feeling ill the day before the 2020 Super Bowl.

“She did get sick, and complained about body aches, but that was it,” Kaila said.

Days later, on February 6, while working at home alone, she collapsed and died.

“I came home and I found her,” said Kaila. “That was so hard because I just saw her on the floor and I just grabbed my phone and called 911.”

“We just couldn’t believe it,” said Macias. “It was like, not real for a really long time.”

The coroner said it was a heart attack.

But the family asked for an autopsy, stunned that a heart attack would take the 57-year-old woman that they describe as fit, healthy and fiery.

After tests, in mid-April, the county told the family Patricia had died of COVID-19 complications.

They still don’t know how she got it.

“They said she was the first person, and I was like, ‘I don’t think she was. Someone had it before her.’ This can’t be happening to my family,” Kaila said.

When asked about the pandemic, Kaila said it’s been difficult.

“It is frustrating, and people who don’t even believe in it who think it’s a hoax – that’s really what angered me the most because I know what it’s like,” she said. “I lived through it.”

On January 14, then President-elect Biden talked about Dowd as he was laying out his plan to fight the pandemic.

“On Feb. 6, 2020, Patricia Dowd took her last breath at home, under the California sun,” Biden said in January.

“The second I heard him say her name I just burst into tears,” Kaila said. “It was just amazing he even took the time to say her name.”

She said she’s written a letter to Biden that she plans to send.

On the anniversary of her death, friends and family held a small, socially-distanced ceremony at a Santa Cruz beach.

In Dowd’s home, it’s as if she knew she needed to bottle up her life’s memories. She loved to scrapbook every event and moment. A life well-lived, like hundreds of thousands that followed, cut short.

“That’s what I loved about her,” Kaila said. “She was always just positive, and happy and laughing.”

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