Hidden outbreaks spread through U.S. cities far earlier than we knew

In five major U.S. cities, as of March 1, there were only 23 confirmed cases of coronavirus. But according to the Northeastern model, there could have actually been about 28,000 infections in those cities by then. By Derek Watkins

Hidden Outbreaks Spread Through U.S. Cities Far Earlier Than Americans Knew, Estimates Say

NEW YORK TIMES - By the time New York City confirmed its first case of the coronavirus on March 1, thousands of infections were already silently spreading through the city, a hidden explosion of a disease that many still viewed as a remote threat as the city awaited the first signs of spring. Hidden outbreaks were also spreading almost completely undetected long before testing showed that major U.S. cities had a major problem. Even in early February — while the world focused on China — the virus was not only likely to be spreading in multiple American cities but also seeding blooms of infection elsewhere in the United States, the Northeastern University researchers found. 

Some scientists cautioned that the new report’s estimates of an enormous, unseen wave of infections could be too high — even though testing surveillance lagged at the time. “Even with these corrections, it’s still on the high side — this is higher than I would have expected,” said Pitt Public Health epidemiologist and dean emeritus, Donald Burke.  

He added that, whatever the precise scale of the initial outbreak, that same dynamic will accelerate once measures to mitigate the spread are relaxed without other public health measures in place. “When you take away social distancing, everything will go right through the roof.”

Read full story 

in the New York Times, Hidden Outbreaks Spread Through U.S. Cities Far Earlier Than Americans Knew, Estimates Say, by Benedict Carey and James Glanz, April 23, 2020


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