Coronavirus in US: Cases came from European travelers as early as mid-February, research suggests

Dr. Fauci said this report was 'probably correct' during a GMA interview
NEW YORK -- New research suggests that the new coronavirus arrived in New York weeks before the first confirmed case and likely came from Europe, not China.

This research would confirm what many had suspected: a lack of testing may have allowed the coronavirus to spread undetected in the New York area for weeks.

When asked about this research on "Good Morning America" Thursday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, said. this was "probably correct."

"We cut off the travel from China relatively early, and we were ceded with a relatively few number of cases from China, but very quickly, the epicenter switched to Europe, particularly northern Italy. Given the travel and the air traffic from anywhere in Italy -- but also particularly northern Italy - it's just not surprising that unfortunately and inadvertently New York was seeded before they knew what was going on," he said.

EMBED More News Videos

Fauci told ABC's "Good Morning America" there's a precedent with other infections like influenza that "when the virus gets warmer that the virus goes down in its ability to replicate, to spread."

The research, first reported by the New York Times, found COVID-19 was circulating in the New York area by mid-February, well before any lockdowns or European travel restrictions. This study was made possible by scientists at Mount Sinai and New York University studied the genetic make-up of the coronavirus from a group of patients.

The U.S. has by far the most confirmed cases, with over 430,000 people infected - three times the number of the next three countries combined. New York state on Wednesday recorded its highest one-day increase in deaths, 779, for an overall death toll of almost 6,300. New York has more than 40% of the U.S. death total of around 15,000.

Worldwide, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases has climbed to nearly 1.5 million, with nearly 90,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University. The true numbers are much higher, because of limited testing, different rules for counting the dead and the efforts of some governments to conceal the extent of their outbreaks.

For most, the virus causes mild to moderate symptoms like fever and cough. But for some older adults and the infirm, it can cause pneumonia and death. Almost 330,000 people have recovered.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Copyright © 2022 WPVI-TV. All Rights Reserved.