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Coronavirus may have hit U.S. in December 2019, new study says

A new study suggests the novel coronavirus came into the United States back in December 2019.

Light from a computer monitor illuminates the face of registered nurse Shelly Girardin as she cares for COVID-19 patients at Scotland County Hospital Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2020, in Memphis, Mo. The tiny hospital in rural northeast Missouri is seeing an alarming increase in coronavirus cases.
Light from a computer monitor illuminates the face of registered nurse Shelly Girardin as she cares for COVID-19 patients at Scotland County Hospital Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2020, in Memphis, Mo. The tiny hospital in rural northeast Missouri is seeing an alarming increase in coronavirus cases.
Jeff Roberson, Associated Press

The novel coronavirus was present in the United States weeks before scientists and public health officials originally thought, according to a new study published this week.

What’s going on?

The novel coronavirus was likely in the United States weeks before scientists started to warn about the virus, and weeks before China identified the virus to the public, too.

The study — published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases — suggests COVID-19 infected people in December 2019 — weeks before the first official case was announced on Jan. 19, 2020.

  • “SARS-CoV-2 infections may have been present in the U.S. in December 2019, earlier than previously recognized,” the authors said.

Why it matters

The study adds to growing evidence that the novel coronavirus hit the United States and the rest of the world before scientists were aware it existed. This would also suggest the virus was quietly spreading through the country before it was even discovered.

What the study did

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reviewed blood donations from the American Red Cross from residents in nine different states, according to NPR.

  • Specifically, the CDC reviewed blood collected from Dec. 13, 2019, to Jan. 17.
  • Coronavirus antibodies existed in 106 out of 7,389 donations.

Some more context:

Reports about a mysterious norovirus spreading through China came out in late December 2019. I first wrote about it in early January, when health officials said the virus couldn’t spread between humans. Soon after, the virus slowly spread across the world.

A patient in France was believed to have contracted the coronavirus at the end of December, which would suggest the coronavirus was already on the move by that point, according to Bloomberg.