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CDC data suggests coronavirus may have been in California as early as December

A 'severe flu season' may have actually been the virus moving through the population, officials say.

Published: April 11, 2020 2:23pm

Updated: April 12, 2020 8:41am

Though the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in the United States was declared Jan. 20, preliminary evidence from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that the disease may have actually been present in the United States at least a month earlier than that. 

Jeff Smith, a doctor and the county executive officer of Santa Clara County, told officials in that district this week that the disease had been "freewheeling" in the Bay Area possibly "for quite some time" prior to the earliest official estimates. 

Smith told officials that the CDC and local health authorities have collected data that suggest the virus may very well have been present as early as December 2019. That would be weeks earlier than the first confirmed case of the disease in the Bay Area, which was announced in late January. 

California was reportedly in the grip of a severe flu outbreak up to the point that health authorities began searching for coronavirus in the state. At least some of those illnesses may have been COVID-19 spreading unaware throughout the state. 

The data, if validated, may partially confirm anecdotal reports circulating on social media, that have suggested a significantly earlier spread of the virus in the United States than what has been estimated. Numerous users on Facebook and Twitter in recent months have claimed to have been stricken in December and early January by an illness with symptoms identical to those of COVID-19. 

Multiple scientists and health authorities have concluded that the virus likely originated in Wuhan, China in November. 

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