The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has repeatedly said the first case of COVID-19 was diagnosed in the U.S. on Jan. 19, 2020.
Now, the CDC is amending that timeline.
A new study shows testing found COVID-19 infections in the U.S. in mid-December 2019. The study, which was published Monday, identified 106 infections from 7,389 blood samples collected from donors in nine U.S. states between Dec. 13 and Jan. 17. The samples, collected by the American Red Cross, were sent to the CDC for testing, which showed antibodies in 39 samples from California, Oregon, and Washington state collected between Dec. 13-16.
“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.
The Wall Street Journal, which first reported the news, wrote: “The findings significantly strengthen evidence suggesting the virus was spreading around the world well before public health authorities and researchers became aware, upending initial thinking about how early and quickly it emerged.”
But it wasn’t just spreading on the West Coast in December, the study found.
“The findings suggest there were isolated cases of coronavirus infection on the U.S. West Coast in mid-December, the scientists wrote. They also found 67 samples with antibodies in Massachusetts, Michigan, Wisconsin or Iowa, and Connecticut or Rhode Island collected between Dec. 30 and Jan. 17,” wrote the Journal.
Reports that an unknown illness was spreading in Wuhan, China, first emerged in late December 2019. Chinese officials initially said the spread was contained and downplayed the seriousness of the virus.
It’s not the first time scientists have sought to push back the spread date. A patient in France was found to have the virus on Dec. 27, Bloomberg News reported in May.
“Not only did Covid-19 likely appear in the U.S. earlier than previously known, but researchers have found evidence that the virus is far more widespread in the U.S. than testing indicates,” the Journal wrote. “Some 53 million people in the U.S. likely had contracted Covid-19 by the end of September, according to a modeling estimate published last week by CDC researchers. Roughly 6.9 million infections had been confirmed within that time period, suggesting that roughly one in every eight cases was identified.”
At least three effective vaccines are in the pipeline.
Pfizer said on Nov. 9 that its developmental vaccine for COVID-19 may be 90% effective at inoculating people against the disease. The rate of effectiveness was calculated by analyzing early data from 94 trial participants in a study involving 43,538 subjects from all over the world. The small early sample means that the protection rate could change by the time the study ends and all the participants are accounted for, according to The Associated Press.
AstraZeneca and Oxford University announced on Nov. 23 that their jointly created COVID-19 vaccine has proven to be up to 90% effective and the makers claim it will be easier to distribute.
“These findings show that we have an effective vaccine that will save many lives,” said Oxford University professor Andrew Pollard, who served as the lead investigator for the drug’s trials. “Because the vaccine can be stored at fridge temperatures, it can be distributed around the world using the normal immunization distribution system. And so our goal … to make sure that we have a vaccine that was accessible everywhere, I think we’ve actually managed to do that.”
The biotech firm said Monday that it will ask the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to approve its experimental COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use. Moderna said new data showed the vaccine was 94.1% effective in its late-stage clinical trial. The Moderna vaccine was developed in conjunction with the Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed.
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