State’s Early Infections Came From New York
78% of early COVID-19 infections in Wisconsin linked to New York City.
How was the COVID-19 virus spread to Wisconsin?
A new study reported by the New York Times shows people infected in the New York City area helped to spread the disease to places like Wisconsin. About 78 percent of all early cases in Wisconsin, based on analysis of genetic samples, came from “a line of the virus associated with the outbreak in New York City than from a line associated with the outbreak in Washington State.”
In the early days of the pandemic, before any state shutdowns had occurred, both Seattle and New York City appeared to be hot spots. “But the Seattle outbreak proved to be a squall before the larger storm gathering in New York, where, at the end of February, thousands of infected people packed trains and restaurants, thronged tourist attractions and passed through its three major airports,” the story noted.
“The research indicates that a wave of infections swept from New York City through much of the country before the city began setting social distancing limits to stop the growth,” the Times reports.
“We now have enough data to feel pretty confident that New York was the primary gateway for the rest of the country,” Nathan Grubaugh, an epidemiologist at the Yale School of Public Health, told the newspaper.
The report found that in Wisconsin 78 percent of the early coronavirus cases were related to New York City, with just 4 percent related to Seattle and Washington State.
Much of this presumably occurred through contact by Wisconsin visitors to New York City or by visitors to Wisconsin from NYC and its airports in January and February, before any efforts at social distancing were being made.
Over all, the report by Grubaugh estimated, “infections spreading from New York account for 60 to 65 percent of the sequenced viruses across the country.” The percent of cases related to New York ranged from 100 percent in Alaska, Iowa and Louisiana to more than 90 percent in East Coast states like New Jersey and Massachusetts to a low of 50 percent in West Coast states like Oregon and California to 45 percent in Illinois.
In three states closer to Seattle — Wyoming, Oregon and California — at least 30 percent of the early cases were linked to Washington State rather than New York. As for Illinois, its comparatively low percentage related to NYC may mean a significant percent of its cases came from O’Hare airport, one of the global leaders in international travel.
The data shows the nation’s slow response to an outbreak the World Health Organization declared a “Public Health Emergency of International Concern” on January 30th helped spread the disease to states across the nation, including Wisconsin.
“The central role of New York’s outbreak shows that decisions made by state and federal officials — including waiting to impose distancing measures and to limit international flights — helped shape the trajectory of the outbreak and allowed it to grow in the rest of the country,” the story noted.
“The city joins other densely populated urban hot spots around the world, starting with Wuhan, China, and then Milan, that have become vectors for the virus’s spread.
“…During crucial weeks in March, New York’s political leaders waited to take aggressive action, even after identifying hundreds of cases, giving the virus a head start. And by mid-March, when President Trump restricted travel from Europe, the restrictions were essentially pointless, the data suggest, as the disease was already spreading widely within the country.
“Acting earlier would most likely have blunted the virus’s march across the country, researchers say.”
“It means that we missed the boat early on, and the vast majority in this country is coming from domestic spread,” as Kristian Andersen, a professor in the department of immunology and microbiology at Scripps Research, told the newspaper.“I keep hearing that it’s somebody else’s fault. That’s not true. It’s not somebody else’s fault, it’s our own fault.”
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