Two separate teams of researchers who tracked the coronavirus outbreak in the United States concluded that the virus originated in travelers from Europe, not China, the New York Times reported on Wednesday.
Studies found that the virus was entering the country via flights from Europe to New York, weeks before Trump implemented a ban on travelers from China on January 31. When he stopped traveling from Europe in mid-March, thousands of people were already infected.
“People were simply unconscious,” Adriana Heguy, who worked with a team at the Grossman Medical School in New York, told the New York Times.
The NY.U. The team, as well as a team at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, analyzed two different groups of coronavirus genomes taken from infected New Yorkers in mid-March. according to the Times. By tracking mutations within the genomes using computer tests, they were able to estimate how long the virus lived and track it back to its ancestors.
Researchers from Mount Sinai found similarities between the viruses brought to the hospital and those analyzed in Europe. Although they cannot specify which flights may have brought the virus, they wrote that “the period of global transmission” was between late January and mid-February.
“Most are clearly European,” Harm van Bakel, a geneticist at the Icahn School of Medicine on Mount Sinai, told the New York Times, whose study is awaiting peer review.
Both teams concluded separately that the hidden spread of the virus could have been discovered if measured aggressive testing had been carried out much earlier. “It was a disaster that we didn’t test,” said Heguy.
The country’s first confirmed case of coronavirus was detected in Washington state on January 19. While other countries have implemented test measures, the United States has lagged behind, sending defective test kits and limiting diagnostics to people who confirmed they had traveled from China.
The day before Trump’s ban on traveling to Europe, photos flooded the social media of hordes of people in tight, crowded lines for hours at airports.
Currently, the country has registered almost half a million cases of the virus and more than 14,000 deaths. Earlier this week, Trump accused the World Health Organization of being “ centralized in China ” in combating the pandemic and threatened to suspend U.S. funding for the organization.