Europe travel ban came too late to prevent New York outbreak
The coronavirus had already spread from Europe to New York by the time the Trump administration adopted a ban on travel from Europe, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report confirms.
The Trump administration banned 26 European countries from entering the United States on March 13. By March 15, the CDC reported, community transmission of the coronavirus was already widespread in New York City.
“Although travel restrictions are an important mitigation strategy, by the time the European restrictions were implemented, importation and community transmission of (coronavirus) had already occurred (in New York)”, according to the CDC’s weekly morbidity and mortality report, published Friday.
New York Department of Health and Mental Hygiene collected nasal swabs from patients at six hospitals during the first three weeks of March. A CDC analysis found that samples that tested positive for COVID-19 looked like corresponding strains of the disease in Europe.
The CDC report also noted that five of these hospitals were selected because they were in areas with a high percentage of Chinese speakers to determine whether the strain they were seeing in New York City could have come from Wuhan, in China, where the virus was first discovered.
Instead, the CDC found that none of the samples from those hospitals matched the Wuhan strain, a finding the administration sought to prevent by banning travel from China on February 2.
“The travel ban with China has made a difference,” Dr. Tom Frieden, former CDC director and current head of the global health initiative Resolve to Save Lives, told USA’s editorial board and reporters. TODAY. end of March. “This caused a significant delay in the number of people infected and because of it, it bought the United States time to better prepare. And yet this time was not used optimally.”
At the time the samples were taken, Italy had the most coronavirus cases and deaths. A month later, the United States overtook Italy, with New York becoming the epicenter.
With 3.6 million cases on Friday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University, the United States is experiencing the world’s worst coronavirus outbreak and more than 138,700 people have died. That’s 1.6 million more cases and 62,000 deaths than the next country on the list, Brazil.
European Union Thursday extended its ban on Americans entering the bloc.
EU first started lifting restrictions on international travel on July 1, welcoming visitors from 14 countries including Canada, South Korea and Australia. Americans remain banned from visiting the bloc for at least two more weeks under Thursday’s decision, announced by the European Council.
The United States still has its own travel restrictions in place, although the EU and other countries have made much more progress in containing the virus. State Department maintained its Level 4 travel advisory from March urging Americans to avoid all international travel because of COVID-19.
Contribution: Deirdre Shesgreen, USA TODAY