Travel data shows 3.8 million travelers from countries that would end up hardest-hit by the coronavirus outbreak entered the U.S. as the pandemic was starting.
Figures from the U.S. Commerce Department from December, January and February, which were the critical early months in the outbreak, reveal how hundreds of thousands or even millions of undetected coronavirus cases could have entered the country while medical experts remained unaware of the seriousness of the illness.
The world first heard about the coronavirus in December, when it remained largely confined to China. Beijing was accused of covering up the spread of the virus, which may have left China’s borders through asymptomatic patients well before new cases were picked up around the world.
Isolated cases started showing up in Europe at the start of February, before the pandemic took off in Europe in the middle of February.
Critics say governments around could have taken the threat of the virus more seriously at the start of 2020 if China could have at least issued grave warnings, instead of insisting the virus was under control.
The travel data shows 759,493 people entered the U.S. from China, where the outbreak is suspected to have originated in Wuhan market place as early as November.
Travel data shows a shocking 3.8 million travelers from countries that would end up hardest-hit by the coronavirus outbreak entered the as the pandemic was starting. Travelers from Italy, a virus hotspot, are seen arriving in New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport earlier this year
The data includes 759,493 people who entered the U.S. from China, where the outbreak is suspected to have originated in Wuhan market place in November. Passengers arrive at Chicago’s O’Hare in late January
The travel data was pulled from Commerce Department records and information provided by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, ABC News reports.
Medical experts say it cannot be known how many travelers may have been infected, but it’s highly likely some were not exhibiting symptoms.
And while the travelers most probably ended up in New York, Seattle, Los Angeles and other large cities, with the total numbers of those arriving so high, people could have gone anywhere in the country.
There have been more than 245,000 confirmed cases in the U.S. of the coronavirus, making it the worst country to be affected by the deadly flu-like virus, also known as COVID-19.
The virus has been blamed for more than 6,000 known deaths across the country.
There have been more than 245,000 confirmed cases in the US of the coronavirus, making it the worst country to be affected by the deadly flu-like virus
How the number of coronavirus cases in the US have escalated over time
The World Health Organization officially proclaimed the virus outbreak a worldwide pandemic on March 11.
President Donald Trump imposed restrictions on travel to and from China Feb. 2, a move that likely helped save lives. But data shows there were about 18,000 Americans who returned to the U.S. from China in the same month and March.
The more than three-quarters of a million people who entered the U.S. from China during the early months, ‘is an astonishing number in a short period of time, illustrating how globalized our world has become, says Dr. Vinayak Kumar, an internal medicine resident at the Mayo Clinic.
‘Just as people can hop continents with amazing ease, the infections they carry can too.’
The China travelers included more than 228,000 Americans returning home and hundreds of thousands of Chinese nationals who were on business trips, travel for school, touring or visiting family.
‘The numbers are clearly alarming,’ Dr. Simone Wildes, an infectious disease specialist at South Shore Health says. ‘It shows that globalization is here, and we have to be better prepared to deal with the impact this will have on all our lives in so many ways.’
Johns Hopkins University researchers suspect the virus may have started as far back as November, and that by December there may have been hundreds of cases in Wuhan.
A team of researchers from University of Toronto warned in mid-January that the outbreak could quickly jump from Wuhan to other major cities because of international travel.