Virus was spreading in the United States as early as December 2019, new study finds


American researchers have found evidence that the coronavirus was spreading in the American population long before it was first observed.

A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention examined 7,389 blood samples from various states between December 13 and January 17 and found 106 people had antibodies to COVID-19, indicating they had been exposed to the virus. Of those, 39 samples taken between December 13 and 16 in Oregon, Washington state and California contained antibodies.

The first American case was confirmed on January 20.

“SARS-CoV-2 infections may have been present in the United States in December 2019, earlier than previously recognized,” the study authors said.

Recent data showed that the virus was spreading across the world before it was thought to.

Italian researchers said last month that the coronavirus was circulating in northern Italy as early as September 2019, long before the initial COVID-19 outbreak was identified in Wuhan, China.

The number of people being treated in U.S. hospitals for COVID-19 surpassed 100,000 for the first time on Wednesday, a monitor said.

“There are 100,226 people currently hospitalized with COVID-19 in the United States – the first time hospitalizations have exceeded 100,000,” the COVID Tracking Project said in a tweet.

Meanwhile, the death toll in the United States topped 2,700 in one day on Wednesday night, the highest since April, Johns Hopkins University said.

A stretcher is reloaded into an ambulance after paramedics dropped off a patient at a newly opened field hospital run by Care New England to handle an increase in COVID-19 patients in Cranston, Rhode Island on Tuesday, December 1, 2020 (AP) Photo / David Goldman)

The new tally of 2,731 deaths brings America’s total known death toll to 273,181 since the pandemic began late last year.

The number of new infections in the past 24 hours was 195,121, according to the university.

The United States hopes to have vaccinated 100 million people against COVID-19 by the end of February, a senior official, who represents about 40% of the country’s adult population, said on Wednesday.

The surge is expected to start in a few weeks, when the vaccines developed by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna-NIH are expected to be approved.

Each of these requires two doses, the second after three weeks and four weeks, respectively.

Sherry Becerril, left, holds Sophia Becerril while taking photos of Evan Becerril after picking out a Christmas tree on Tuesday, December 1, 2020 in Long Beach, Calif. (AP Photo / Ashley Landis)

“Between mid-December and the end of February, we will have potentially vaccinated 100 million people,” Moncef Slaoui, scientific adviser to the government program Operation Warp Speed, told reporters.

This, he continued, would cover the “at risk” population including the elderly, healthcare workers and first responders.

There will be a “sufficient” amount of vaccine to immunize three million residents of long-term care facilities in December, said the former pharmaceutical executive, who was recruited by President Donald Trump’s administration in the spring.

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