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US researchers trace COVID-19 cases in US back to December 2019

Since the start of the pandemic, more than 33.4 million cases of COVID-19 have been registered in the US

NEW YORK, June 16. /TASS/. The National Health Institutes of the United States has obtained evidence that the novel coronavirus arrived in the country way earlier than was initially suggested, with early cases dating December 2019, according to a statement published on Wednesday.

As part of the study, researchers analyzed more than 24,000 stored blood samples contributed by people across all 50 states between January 2 and March 18, 2020. They detected antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 in samples from nine people. They were from outside the major urban hotspots of Seattle and New York City, believed to be key points of entry of the virus in the US. Also, positive samples came as early as January 7 from residents of five other US states. Most of them were collected prior to the first reported cases in those areas, demonstrating the importance of expanding testing as quickly as possible in an epidemic setting.

"This study allows us to uncover more information about the beginning of the US epidemic and highlights the real-world value of longitudinal research in understanding dynamics of emerging diseases like COVID-19," said the study’s author Josh Denny said.

In late December 2019, Chinese officials notified the World Health Organization (WHO) about the outbreak of previously unknown pneumonia in the city of Wuhan, in central China. Since then, cases of the novel coronavirus — named COVID-19 by the WHO — have been reported in every corner of the globe, including Russia. On March 11, 2020, the WHO declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic.

According to the Johns Hopkins University, more than 33.4 million cases of COVID-19 have been registered in the United States since the start of the pandemic. About 600,000 people died as a result.