COVID may have been spreading in the U.S. as early as December 2019, new study says

Jessica Schladebeck, New York Daily News
·1 min read

The coronavirus pandemic likely first struck the United States in December 2019, weeks before the first infections were officially recorded in China, according to a new government study.

An analysis of 7,389 blood samples collected by the American Red Cross between Dec. 13 and Jan. 17 found evidence of COVID-19 present in 106 of them. Scientists with the Centers for Disease Control and prevention tested the samples, donated by residents across nine different states, for SARS-CoV-2 reactive antibodies.

Among those samples that tested positive, 39 of them were taken in California, Oregon and Washington — some of the earliest hot spots in the United States’ health crisis. The blood donations were collected between Dec. 13 and Dec. 16, more than a month before public health authorities identified the first U.S. case

Researchers also found 67 samples with antibodies in Massachusetts, Michigan, Wisconsin or Iowa, and Connecticut or Rhode Island collected between Dec. 30 and Jan. 17.

“The findings of this report suggest that SARS-CoV-2 infections may have been present in the U.S. in December 2019, earlier than previously recognized,” the paper said.

Previously, the first known case of COVID-19 in the US was reported on Jan. 21. The patient, a male in his 30s, had recently returned to Washington from Wuhan.

Health officials in the Chinese city first began investigating a contagious pneumonia-like illness in late December 2019. The disease quickly ripped across the city before continuing its spread worldwide.

As of Tuesday, more than 63 million people have been infected with coronavirus, including more than 1.4 million that have died.

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