Evidence suggests COVID-19 was in U.S. by Christmas 2019

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 (AP) — A new analysis of blood samples from 24,000 Americans taken early last year is the latest and largest study to suggest that the new coronavirus popped up in the U.S. in December 2019 — weeks before cases were first recognized by health officials.

“There was probably very rare and sporadic cases here earlier than we were aware of. But it was not widespread and didn’t become widespread until late February,” said Natalie Thornburg of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The analysis is not definitive, and some experts remain skeptical, but federal health officials are increasingly accepting a timeline in which small numbers of COVID-19 infections may have occurred in the U.S. before the world ever became aware of a dangerous new virus erupting in China.

The study was published Tuesday online by the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.

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