New York Times Investigates How in America ‘the Virus Won’

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“Invisible outbreaks sprang up everywhere. The United States ignored the warning signs,” writes the New York Times, in a detailed interactive data visualization.

“We analyzed travel patterns, hidden infections and genetic data to show how the epidemic spun out of control.” By mid-February, there were only 15 known coronavirus cases in the United States, all with direct links to China… The patients were isolated. Their contacts were monitored. Travel from China was restricted.

None of that worked. Only a small part of the picture was visible. Some 2,000 hidden infections were already spreading through major cities…

Genetic samples linked to the Seattle outbreak appeared in at least 14 states, said Trevor Bedford, a professor at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center… In New York City, where officials had found only a single case by March 1, roughly 10,000 infections had spread undetected… More than 5,000 contagious travelers left New York City in the first two weeks of March, estimates suggest… People [from New York City] also made more than 25,000 trips to New Orleans, where genetic data suggests that a large early outbreak stemmed from infections from New York…

Travel from the city helped to spread that variant across the country. “New York has acted as a Grand Central Station for this virus,” said David Engelthaler of the Translational Genomics Research Institute. By the time President Trump blocked travel from Europe on March 13, the restrictions were essentially pointless. The outbreak had already been spreading widely in most states for weeks… The New Orleans outbreak helped seed infection across Louisiana and the South…

Even now, America remains in the dark. Most infected people are never tested. There is little capacity to trace and isolate the contacts to those who do test positive.

After the lockdowns expired, new cases spiked once again.

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