Researchers at two different universities independently found that the coronavirus was brought to New York by travelers from Europe, not Asia, according to The New York Times.
Researchers at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai as well as a different team at the New York University Grossman School of Medicine that studies different cases both came to the same conclusion.
“The majority is clearly European,” said Harm van Bakel, a geneticist at Icahn.
The researchers studied genomes and determined that the virus first arrived in New York in mid-February, weeks before the state reported its first confirmed case.
President Trump announced a ban on certain travelers from China on January 31, though more than 400,000 travelers from China have entered the US since the ban. Trump did not block travelers from European countries until March 11.
Researchers say testing could have identified early cases:
“It was a disaster that we didn’t do testing,” one of the researchers told The Times.
The US first sent out faulty testing kits to labs and initially only limited testing to those traveling from China and displaying symptoms of the virus.
Researchers used techniques first used in Washington state and found that New York viruses had unique mutations differing from other cases.
“That’s when you know you’ve had a silent transmission for a while,” NYU researcher Adriana Heguy told the Times.
“Two weeks later, we start seeing viruses related to each other,” added Icahn researcher Ana Silvia Gonzalez-Reiche.
Washington found cases from January:
Researchers in Washington also found that the virus had already arrived in the state by late January.
“I’m quite confident that it was not spreading in December in the United States,” said Dr. Trevor Bedford of the University of Washington. “There may have been a couple other introductions in January that didn’t take off in the same way.”