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Study finds the coronavirus may have entered the U.S. in December 2019

Published Aug 16th, 2020 9:02AM EDT
Coronavirus News
Image: kerkezz/Adobe

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  • According to a new research study, the coronavirus may have started spreading in Washington state as early as December 2019.
  • Many initial coronavirus patients in the area were likely misdiagnosed with the flu.
  • The U.S. has since seen more than 5 million coronavirus cases.

The coronavirus may have arrived in the US as early as December 2019, according to a new report published in EClinicalMedicine. While it was long assumed that coronavirus infections in the U.S. began in March, the report’s findings suggest hundreds of individuals in the Seattle area were likely COVID-19 positive weeks, if not months, earlier than initially believed.

The report estimates that 2268 children and 4367 adults in Washington state came down with the coronavirus sometime between February 24 and March 9. The report adds that the seeding of the coronavirus in the state likely took place sometime between December 25, 2019, and January 15, 2020. Recall that the coronavirus is believed to have started in Wuhan, China, and first made its way to the United States when a man traveled from the area to Washington.

“The spread of COVID-19 in Wuhan and Seattle was far more extensive than initially reported,” the study notes. “The virus likely spread for months in Wuhan before the lockdown. Given that COVID-19 appears to be overwhelmingly mild in children, our high estimate for symptomatic pediatric cases in Seattle suggests that there may have been thousands more mild cases at the time.”

Not surprisingly, the study found that many of the early COVID-19 cases were likely misdiagnosed by health professionals early on. This would make sense given that the coronavirus and the flu share many of the same baseline symptoms.

The report concludes:

The COVID-19 epidemics in Wuhan and Seattle were far more extensive than initially reported and had likely been spreading for several weeks before they became apparent. The large discrepancy between confirmed cases and true prevalence highlights the difficulty of determining infection fatality rates from readily available COVID-19 data.

As to where we stand now, the number of coronavirus cases in the United States surpassed 5 million earlier in the week, prompting some politicians and health professionals to call for more serious efforts to combat the virus and prevent it from spreading even further.

To this end, Dr. Michael T. Osterholm, who is currently the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, penned an op-ed in The New York Times calling for another nationwide shutdown:

We believe the choice is clear. We can continue to allow the coronavirus to spread rapidly throughout the country or we can commit to a more restrictive lockdown, state by state, for up to six weeks to crush the spread of the virus to less than one new case per 100,000 people per day.

That’s the point at which we will be able to limit the increase in new cases through aggressive public health measures, just as other countries have done. But we’re a long way from there right now.

Not too long ago, Dr. Anthony Fauci said that the U.S. could be in for a world of trouble if we can’t get the daily number of new coronavirus cases down below 10,000 by fall.

Yoni Heisler Contributing Writer

Yoni Heisler has been writing about Apple and the tech industry at large with over 15 years of experience. A life long expert Mac user and Apple expert, his writing has appeared in Edible Apple, Network World, MacLife, Macworld UK, and TUAW.

When not analyzing the latest happenings with Apple, Yoni enjoys catching Improv shows in Chicago, playing soccer, and cultivating new TV show addictions.