Coronavirus News: NY cases came from Europe as early as mid-February, scientists find

NEW YORK (WABC) -- New research found that the COVID-19 novel coronavirus arrived in New York weeks before the first confirmed case and likely came from Europe, not China.

Researchers are confirming what many had suspected: a lack of testing may have allowed this virus to spread undetected in the New York area for weeks.

Those scientists at Mount Sinai and NYU studied the genetic make-up of the coronavirus from a group of patients.

The research, first reported by the New York Times, found COVID-19 was circulating in the New York area by mid-February, well before any lockdowns or European travel restrictions.

Asked about studies suggesting the virus was spreading in New York in mid-February - with most of those cases coming from Europe - Dr. Anthony Fauci told "Good Morning America" that's "probably correct."

"The epicenter switched to Europe, particularly northern Italy, and given the air travel from anywhere in Italy, particularly northern Italy, it's just not surprising that unfortunately and inadvertently New York was seeded before they really knew what was going on," he said. "And that is why they are in the difficult situation they are in now."

President Donald Trump frequently trumpets the travel restrictions on China in late January as a key mitigation strategy, but he didn't impose restrictions on Europe until mid-March.

While the president has in the past expressed hope that warmer weather conditions, Dr. Fauci said "one should not assume that we are going to be rescued by a change in the weather."

New York state set another new one-day death toll on Wednesday - 779 people. 6,268 people have died from COVID-19 in the state. Flags will be flown at half staff for those who died.

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