Researchers Claim COVID-19's Spread Began Much Earlier Than Previously Reported

Researchers at the CDC have found evidence that coronavirus was spreading much sooner than initially reported. The agency looked at syndromic surveillance, virus surveillance, phylogenetic analysis and retrospectively identified cases as part of the study, which indicated the first case of COVID-19 may have occurred in late January or early February, it reported on Friday.

The first confirmed case of COVID-19 occurred on Feb. 26, which was possibly related to a Washington resident who traveled from Wuhan, China and later developed symptoms on Jan. 19. The virus then spread "throughout the Seattle metropolitan area and possibly elsewhere." Coronavirus was first declared a global pandemic on March 11 by the WHO, with President Donald Trump declaring it a national emergency just two days later. Both announcements came after weeks of cancellations or delays of major events including music tours, motion pictures and major festivals.

The study also noted that coronavirus is "frequently asymptomatic and that transmission can occur before the onset of symptoms," meaning it will be nearly impossible to trace the true origin of the virus. Back in March, Iceland tested roughly five percent of its population in a voluntary blind study, which found that as many as half of those that tested positive were completely asymptomatic.

While there were admitted flaws the to study, it was enough for the CDC and other agencies to rethink how to slow the spread, which led to a federal pivot on some social distancing practices — namely the wearing of masks in public. On Tuesday, the U.S. reached 100,000 deaths from COVID-19, though it's likely the real number is far higher than what's been reported.

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On May 12, Dr. Anthony Fauci, a member of Trump's coronavirus response team, testified to the Senate via webcam that the actual death toll was likely far greater. "Given the situation — particularly in New York City, where they were really strapped with a very serious challenge to their health care system — that there may have been people who died at home who did have COVID, who were not counted as COVID, because they never really got to the hospital," Fauci said. "I think you are correct that the number is likely higher. I don't know exactly what percent higher, but it almost certainly is higher."

On Friday, Johns Hopkins University reported that there have been 1.7 million reported cases of COVID-19 in the U.S., with just under 103,000 deaths. There are just under 6 million confirmed cases across the globe.