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Does This Study Shift the Covid-19 Narrative About When the Virus Was in the US?

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
AP Photo/Denis Poroy

The American Red Cross has released a report that might alter the realities of the Covid-19 pandemic. The organization announced a new study has been released based on tests conducted on blood donations to the Red Cross, and it shows a presence of the coronavirus in samples dated from December 2019. This could become deeply significant based on the accepted timeline of events we have been served up to this point.


Because China has not been fully forthcoming about the outbreak, the origins are rather hazy. It is believed there were indications they were contending with the virus in November of last year. China and the World Health Organization officially recognized the presence of Covid-19 near New Years Eve 2019. The US was notified of the outbreak in January, and we are told the first official case was recorded in the middle of the month. The new study, however, points to the possibility of a far earlier arrival.

"This study aimed to determine when the virus might have first appeared in the United States by using archived samples from routine blood donations collected by the Red Cross. The non-identifiable blood samples used in the study—from donors in nine states between Dec. 13, 2019 and Jan. 17, 2020."

The conclusion; it appears that introduction of the virus to the U.S. may have taken place much earlier than declared, possibly in the fall of 2019.

In the study of the blood samples, Covid-19 antibodies were detected in 84 donors on the west coast from Washington, Oregon, and California as early as December 13. Other samples were from donations made between late December to mid-January from six other states showing the antibodies -- Iowa, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin. The key aspect is these were not showing positive viral activity but the presence of the anti-SARS CoV-2 antibodies, the virus causing Covid-19.

Given that that period for these antibodies to develop is estimated to be one to two weeks moves the possible infection date to at least November. The Center for Disease Control states that the antibodies for Covid-19 now have shown to be 60-90 days to remain in a testable threshold. This would push the infection dates of some back to possibly September of 2019.


The idea that these results could be coming from donations made by those who travel out of the country is a possibility, but it is a limiting factor. The Red Cross reports that they survey donors and find that less than 3 percent of those giving blood have traveled outside the country; of that small figure only 5 percent reported traveling to Asia.

There is a possibility also of cross-reactivity to more common coronavirus strains, but the study has been targeting specifically the Covid-19 strain causing our pandemic. As the novel virus is becoming more known, more serological tests are coming online to detect the antibodies of the SARS CoV-2 virus. If this study continues to make the determination of earlier presence in the U.S. of the outbreak it could shift the thinking on the outbreak. More studies will be conducted to pin down details. 

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