New York's coronavirus outbreak originated mainly in travelers from Europe, new studies show

insider@insider.com (Lauren Frias)
·2 min read
coronavirus doctors new york
Doctors testing hospital workers for the coronavirus at St. Barnabas hospital in the Bronx borough of New York City on March 24.

Misha Friedman/Getty Images

  • The coronavirus outbreak in New York originated mainly in travelers from Europe, not Asia, according to new studies cited by The New York Times on Wednesday.

  • Researchers also found the novel coronavirus was circulating in New York City as early as mid-February, The Times said, weeks before a European travel ban was imposed by President Donald Trump on March 11.

  • "People were just oblivious," Adriana Heguy, a member of a research team from New York University, told The Times.

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New research suggests the coronavirus outbreak in New York originated mainly in travelers from Europe, not Asia, The New York Times reported Wednesday.

Studies also found the coronavirus was circulating in the New York area as early as mid-February, The Times said, indicating the virus has been spreading long before more aggressive testing measures were put into place.

Two separate research teams studying the genomes of infected patients in New York came to the same conclusion despite having looked at two different case groups, The Times reported.

"People were just oblivious," Adriana Heguy, a member of the research team from New York University, told The Times.

The country's first confirmed coronavirus case was detected in Washington state on January 19. A little under two weeks later, on January 31, President Donald Trump implemented a ban on foreign nationals entering the country if they had been to China in the past 14 days.

On March 11, Trump also imposed a ban on foreign travel into the US from most of Europe, following an unprecedented nationwide lockdown in Italy, which has the highest coronavirus death toll globally.

Nonetheless, the new studies indicate travelers from Europe carrying the virus were already entering the country via New York weeks before the ban.

"The majority is clearly European," Harm van Bakel, a geneticist at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, told The Times.

As of Wednesday, the coronavirus had infected more than 435,000 people in the US, with nearly 15,000 deaths. In New York state alone, there are at least 151,069 cases and 6,268 deaths.

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