Legendary actor Cloris Leachman died on January 27, 2021, at age 94. Now new details reveal that she had COVID-19—and that the infection was a contributing factor in her death.
Leachman’s official cause of death was a cardiovascular accident (also called a stroke), according to the death certificate obtained by ET Online. The death certificate also lists COVID-19 as a contributing factor in her death, but it was not the direct cause, a spokesperson for the San Diego County’s Medical Examiner’s Office told People.
The way COVID-19 appears on a death certificate can sometimes be confusing. It’s completely normal for a death certificate to list a primary cause of death as well as any contributing or underlying factors, SELF explained previously. And, although we don’t know exactly what happened in Leachman’s case, we do know that blood clots and strokes can be a complication of COVID-19.
A stroke is a medical emergency that happens when something blocks or restricts the blood flow to the brain, the Mayo Clinic says. The most common type of stroke, an ischemic stroke, occurs when blood clots or fatty deposits block or narrow a blood vessel. Without that blood, brain cells can begin to die. That may lead to brain damage and, without prompt treatment, death.
Emerging research suggests that the coronavirus can contribute to blood clots, especially in people who are already at risk for them, such as people taking birth control, pregnant people, and those on estrogen therapy. Experts don’t totally understand why the coronavirus is associated with an increased risk for clots, but they think the virus may affect the way the blood clots or how the platelets in the blood function.
Of course, we don’t know all the details of Leachman’s death or to what degree COVID-19 played a role. But what is clear is that this is yet another loss related to the virus in some way. “There was no one like Cloris. With a single look she had the ability to break your heart or make you laugh till the tears ran down your face,” Leachman’s manager told People. “You never knew what Cloris was going to say or do and that unpredictable quality was part of her unparalleled magic.”