Coronavirus now believed to have been in New York as early as late January

April 16, 2020

As of this week, the number of infected New Yorkers who have died from COVID-19 complications has surpassed similar outcomes in many countries, including China. Geneticists and researchers from two separate teams and investigations revealed this week that they believe that the total number of infected, both living and deceased, is a lot higher. They were able to trace the spread of the virus among many infected people in the state to gain a broader view of where the virus came from and how it spread.

Although the first patient thought to have SARS-CoV-2 was officially diagnosed in March, geneticists at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and New York University’s Grossman School of Medicine believe that the virus was spreading possibly as early as mid-February or even late-January. Some people had it and survived/died without doctors or the public realizing what was actually happening. People who had the virus might have been diagnosed with other conditions, such as the flu, bronchitis and pneumonia.

As Dr. Adriana Heguy, an N.Y.U. team member and international viral historian, told The New York Times: “People were just oblivious… It was a disaster that we didn’t do testing [in January].”

The two teams found proof in genetic data that the virus in the majority of cases likely arrived in the state with travelers from Europe. This data makes sense given the severity of the outbreak in Italy, which had a lot of Chinese tourists and travelers prior to global social distancing and isolation protocols.

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