While there were obviously isolated cases in various places as early as December or January, or even November, a recent US genetic study suggests that exponential spread here did not begin until around 40,000 expats were repatriated from overseas in February, to the hub airports that Amy-MiMi pointed out in a thread long ago, which then infected airport workers, family members, and many others who were unprotected.
I'm also including one bittersweet story about a WW2 vet, because I think we need a few stories with semi-happy endings in order to keep carrying on. /-:
'Rock Steady' Veteran Pulls Through After a Fellow Soldier's Boost
After Covid-19 killed his wife, George Crouch had little spirit to fight his own battle against the disease. But he found common ground with a military visitor. ...
The outlook for the patient assigned to Capt. Eric Dungan on May 1 was bleak: George Crouch, 96, seemed to have given up on life.
His beloved wife had died of Covid-19, and Mr. Crouch was also battling the illness in the hospital. Since his wife’s death in late April, he was refusing medical care and would not eat.
Captain Dungan, a trained social worker in the U.S. Army Reserves, had been deployed from Indiana to New York City to help hospitals counsel the sick during the coronavirus crisis. Many of his patients at Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx had already died of the illness, and given Mr. Crouch’s age, condition and temperament, Captain Dungan braced for the worst. ...
Before he was stricken with Covid-19, he had lived a full life. Born in Hartford, Conn., Mr. Crouch first came to the city at 15 years old. He made money washing windows for a lawyer in the Williamsbridge section of the Bronx. After the war, he bought a row home in that neighborhood, and had lived there since — first alone, and later with his wife, Gail, whom he married in 1975.
They became pillars of their community. Mr. Crouch had a career as a lab technician with the City College of New York, where he taught chemistry. In the 1980s, he was voted the honorary mayor of Williamsbridge by civic leaders and worked closely with the N.A.A.C.P. ...
In the last week in April, Mr. Crouch’s wife became severely ill ... and started shaking and vomiting. Mr. Crouch also said he did not feel well; both were transported to Jacobi Medical Center by ambulance on April 24. By April 30, Ms. Crouch had died.
Mr. Crouch became despondent after her death, and with increasingly dismal updates, his family prepared for the worst. Because of safety precautions at the hospital, they were unable to visit him. Cut off from his family, Mr. Crouch was growing isolated and dejected. ...
He was hardly sleeping and refused to eat. But Mr. Crouch brightened whenever Captain Dungan came to visit, the captain recalled. He would pull off his oxygen mask to whisper, and they shared stories about their families and their military experience and joked about Mr. Crouch’s baldness.
“I tried to hit his room two or three times a day,” Captain Dungan said. Often, he just sat by Mr. Crouch’s bedside as he slept.
On May 5, as Captain Dungan left their morning visit for his rounds, Mr. Crouch gave him a directive: “Rock steady,” he told him.
“That term became our little thing,” said Captain Dungan. From that morning, they greeted each other with those words and said them in parting. ...
Even as Mr. Crouch opened up to Captain Dungan, he resisted medical care. He at times pulled out his I.V. and would not eat. He missed his wife, he told Captain Dungan; they had been married for 44 years.
When Captain Dungan came to visit one afternoon, he nudged Mr. Crouch toward a plate of untouched food. Mr. Crouch ignored him, but Captain Dungan persisted, he recalled.
Exasperated, Mr. Crouch pulled off his mask and glared at Captain Dungan.
“What do you want me to do?” Mr. Crouch asked.
“I want you to live,” Captain Dungan said.
Mr. Crouch paused and seemed to consider the idea.
“All right then,” he said, and began eating ...
On May 15, Mr. Crouch tested negative for the coronavirus and was released to an acute rehabilitation center, where his condition continues to improve. His family hopes he can be home soon.
On the day of his discharge from the hospital, he was wheeled through the Jacobi Medical Center lobby to raucous applause. He wore his “World War II Veteran” cap.
Coronavirus Epidemics Began Later Than Believed, Study Concludes
In Washington State and Italy, the first confirmed cases were not linked to the outbreaks that followed, the analysis found. The epidemics were seeded later. ...
The first confirmed coronavirus infections in Europe and the United States, discovered in January, did not ignite the epidemics that followed, according to a close analysis of hundreds of viral genomes.
Instead, the outbreaks plaguing much of the West began weeks later, the study concluded. The revised timeline may clarify nagging ambiguities about the arrival of the pandemic.
For example, while President Trump has frequently claimed that a ban on travelers from China prevented the epidemic from becoming much worse, the new data suggest that the virus that started Washington State’s epidemic arrived roughly two weeks after the ban was imposed on Feb. 2.
And the authors argue that the relatively late emergence of the outbreak means that more lives could have been saved by early action, such as testing and contact tracing. ...
Michael Worobey, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Arizona, and his colleagues posted a preliminary version of their study online on Saturday. It has not yet been published in a scientific journal.
Viruses develop genetic mutations at a roughly regular rate as they multiply. Scientists can use these mutations to reconstruct a virus’s movement through a population and to estimate when an outbreak began in a region.
The first confirmed coronavirus case in the United States was a man who flew from China to the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on Jan. 15. Researchers sequenced the genome of his virus, which came to be known as WA1.
The man, who lived in Snohomish County, was hospitalized in isolation and recovered. On Feb. 24, a Snohomish teenager with flulike symptoms also tested positive for the coronavirus.
Trevor Bedford, a geneticist at the University of Washington and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, and his colleagues discovered that this viral genome was nearly identical to WA1, except for two new mutations. They called the second virus WA2.
Alarmed, he and his colleagues concluded that the most likely explanation for the slight difference was that WA1 had circulated in Washington State for six weeks, gaining the mutations along the way.
The implication was that there might be hundreds of people already infected in the state, setting the stage for an explosion of cases. Officials reacted to the news with aggressive measures that public health experts credit with reining in the outbreak.
Initially, Dr. Worobey found the work by Dr. Bedford and his colleagues “pretty darn convincing.” But as time passed, he said in an interview, “something at the back of my mind started niggling away.”
Viruses are far more prone to genetic mutations than other living things. But as viruses go, the new coronavirus is a slowpoke — much more stable than influenza viruses, for example.
It seemed unlikely to Dr. Worobey for the coronavirus to have gained two mutations in just weeks.
As the epidemic spread, Dr. Bedford and his colleagues examined hundreds of coronavirus genomes from Washington State. None of the genomes matched WA1. They all shared the two mutations found in WA2. ...
It was far more likely that the WA2 group of viruses was introduced to Washington from China sometime around Feb. 13th and set off the epidemic.
That was about two weeks after Mr. Trump banned most travelers from China. According to an analysis by The New York Times, however, about 40,000 people made the journey to the United States in the two months after those restrictions were imposed.
Many were admitted under rules that exempted American citizens and others. They were funneled to a few international hubs, including Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. ...
Around the world, the new study suggests, the coronavirus arrived more than once without starting runaway outbreaks. In these cases, there was little or no transmission, and the virus simply died out.
To Dr. Worobey, the time before the pandemic took off in the United States was a lost opportunity, when testing and contact tracing could have made a big difference.
“There were weeks before the virus really got a foothold,” he said. “It does start to make those missteps seem much more consequential.”