Last March Francis Collins, director of the US National Institutes of Health, said that the Coronavirus might have been spreading quietly in humans for years, or even decades, without causing a detectable outbreak. A few weeks later, a British-German team led by evolutionary virologist Peter Forster published A phylogenetic network analysis of SARS-CoV-2 genomes, reconstructing the early evolutionary paths of SARS-CoV-2 in humans.
By analysing the first 160 complete virus genomes to be sequenced from human patients and collected from across the world between 24 December 2019 – 4 March 2020, they mapped the early spread of the virus through viral lineages created by its mutations. Their data revealed three variants they labeled A, B, and C. Versions of Type A, ‘the original human virus genome’ was not predominant in Wuhan, and mutated versions of ‘A’ were found in the USA and Australia. Wuhan’s major virus type, ‘B’, was prevalent in patients from across East Asia. Forster conjectured, “My dating suggests sometime between September and December 2019. Some scientists said it came to Italy from China, but I am not so sure.”
Later, retrospective analyses of Spanish and French sewage suggested that the virus was present in Europe in late 2019 then, on November 11, 2020, an Italian paperUnexpected detection of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies in the prepandemic period in Italy. Giovanni Apolone, et al., Tumori, Nov. 11, 2020. provided dated evidence that Covid-19 was circulating in Europe no later than September, 2019:
The diagram in Table 1, below, illustrates the temporal variation in positive samples from September 2019 to February 2020. Notably, two peaks of positivity for anti-SARS-CoV-2 RBD antibodies were visible: the first one started at the end of September, reaching 18% and 17% of IgM-positive cases in the second and third weeks of October, respectively. A second occurred in February 2020, with a peak of over 30% of IgM-positive cases in the second week. Out of this cluster of 16 positive samples, 11 (68.7%) originated in Lombardy:
The Italian team found that four cases from the first week of October were positive for antibodies neutralizing the virus, meaning they became infected in September. Said co-author Giovanni Apolone, “This is our main finding: people with no symptoms not only were positive after the serological tests but had also antibodies able to kill the virus. It means that the new coronavirus can circulate among the population for long and with a low rate of lethality not because it is disappearing, but only to surge again”.
In late November, a team from the US Centers for Disease Control testedSerologic testing of U.S. blood donations to identify SARS-CoV-2-reactive antibodies: December 2019-January 2020. Basavaraju,et al., https://doi.org/10.1093/cid/ciaa1785 residual, archived samples of 7,389 routine blood donations collected in nine states by the American Red Cross between December 13, 2019 – January 17, 2020, for anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibodies:
Of the 7,389 samples, 106 were reactive by pan Ig. Of these 106 specimens, 90 were available for further testing. Eighty-four of 90 had neutralizing activity, 1 had S1 binding activity, and 1 had receptor binding domain/Ace2 blocking activity >50%, suggesting the presence of anti-SARS-CoV-2-reactive antibodies. Donations with reactivity occurred in all nine states.
They summarized their findings in a spreadsheet, excerpted below, in which I have extrapolated their percentages to the US population in the added, highlighted rows:
If Covid’s doubling interval is 2.68 days, the CDC figures suggest that the first US case occurred in early October, 2019, which matches reports of Covid symptoms on both coasts and supports the popular idea that US infections came from Italy, whose military athletes may have also carried the virus to Wuhan.
American media largely disregarded both papers. NPR buried the CDC findings under Coronavirus Was In US Weeks Earlier Than Previously Known, Study Says. The New York Times simply ignored it, beginning its Dec. 28, 2020 article, “Here’s a timeline of the outbreak over the past year:
Chinese authorities treated dozens of cases of pneumonia of unknown cause.
On Dec. 31, the government in Wuhan, China, confirmed that health authorities were treating dozens of cases. Days later, researchers in China identified a new virus that had infected dozens of people in Asia. At the time, there was no evidence that the virus was readily spread by humans. Health officials in China said they were monitoring it to prevent the outbreak from developing into something more severe.
The Times’ failure to cover the story suggests that it intends to apply standard operating procedure: tell a Big Lie (invisible WMDs, invisible massacres, invisible genocides, invisible famine deaths, invisible epidemics) early, loud, and often then, when the truth is revealed, repeat the lie.
Given the elaborate coronavirus monitoring network China established in 2013–following the SARS outbreak–and the fact that it sequences the genomes of all new cases and has retroactively sequenced all foreign ones, it is unlikely that the virus established itself there much before November 1. The first known Chinese case, a ten-year-old boy misdiagnosed with measles, dates to December 1, 2019. This chart also suggests late infection and prompt suppression:
Expect a paper in January that draws upon thousands of sequenced genomes and broadens and deepens Peter Forster’s work. Those who have seen it say it points to India as the birthplace of the novel virus.
Godfree publishes Here Comes China!, the newsletter for readers who prefer their China news shaken, not stirred.