New York-area coronavirus outbreak originated primarily in Europe, not China

Two separate studies show that the coronavirus outbreak in the New York City area – by far the most deadly in the U.S. – originated from Europe, not China, according to a report.

Researchers conducting one of the studies have detected seven separate lineages of viruses that have arrived in the New York City area and they expect to find more, The New York Times reported Wednesday.The two studies are being conducted by the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and the New York University School of Medicine.

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Despite examining different examples of the outbreak, researchers from both teams reached largely the same conclusions about its origins, the Times reported.

“The majority is clearly European,” Dr. Harm van Bakel, a geneticist and co-author of the Icahn School’s study, told the newspaper.

Travelers likely carrying the virus had already been arriving in New York from Europe before Jan. 31, when President Trump limited entry by foreign nationals who’d been in China and March 11, when the president announced plans to block travelers from most parts of Europe, the Times reported.

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On March 19, the newspaper reported that travelers arriving from Europe – where outbreaks in Italy and Spain were severe – were being asked at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport only if they had been to China or Iran, not if they had visited the hardest-hit nations in Europe.

“People were just oblivious,” Dr. Adriana Heguy of the NYU research team told the Times.

Researchers need to track the history of the virus so they will be able to develop vaccines and modify them as the virus mutates into other forms, the report said.

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As of late Wednesday, the novel coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, had infected 1.5 million people worldwide and killed nearly 88,000 people.

In the U.S., the virus had infected more than 420,000 people and killed more than 14,300.

In New York City, the virus had infected nearly 82,000 people (more than 19 percent of all U.S. cases) and killed more than 6,200 (nearly 44 percent of all U.S. deaths).

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