Coronavirus was present in US earlier than initially thought: Study

A nurse administers a test during a COVID-19 testing and flu shot event at the Tacoma Dome on November 28, 2020 in Tacoma, Washington. (Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)

Though the first case of the coronavirus wasn’t identified in the U.S. until January, a new study suggests that the novel disease was present earlier in the country than first thought.

A study published Monday in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases conducted by researchers with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that the novel virus was present in the United States as early as mid-December 2019. 

The conclusion is based on blood donations from the Red Cross from nine states, including Washington, Oregon, California, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, Rhode Island and Wisconsin. 

More specifically, evidence of SARS-CoV-2, the scientific name for the novel virus, was present in 106 of the 7,389 blood donations, which were collected between Dec. 13, 2019, and Jan 17, 2020, according to the study.

Antibodies to the virus were found in 39 blood samples from Washington, Oregon and California, and they were found in 67 samples from the other six states. 

“These findings suggest that SARS-CoV-2 may have been introduced into the United States prior to January 19, 2020,” the researchers stated. The findings also “highlight the value of blood donations as a source for conducting SARS-CoV-2 surveillance.” 

Other studies have also suggested the virus may have been present in the U.S. earlier than first thought. Specifically, a study published in September conducted by researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles, and the University of Washington said that the novel virus may have been present last year in Los Angeles around Christmas. 

Fox News’ Amy McGorry contributed to this report.