New York’s coronavirus outbreak traced to Europe, researchers say


New York’s devastating coronavirus outbreak largely sprung from carriers who arrived from Europe, geneticists said in a new study.

Researchers at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai analyzed the genomes in 90 COVID-19 patients from four New York City boroughs and Westchester County, and the majority of the cases traced back to Europe.

“In it’s path out of China, it didn’t take a direct route into New York," Dr. Harm van Bakel, a researcher at Mount Sinai who co-wrote the report, told the Daily News. “Rather it took a stopover in Europe.”

As the virus has swept across the globe, it has subtly mutated, allowing epidemiologists to track its movements. In the study, most local coronavirus illnesses had genomes mirroring those circulating in Europe.

Van Bakel said the geneticists couldn’t pinpoint a specific place the virus crossed through, because the diversity of the New York samples suggested there were introductions from multiple European countries.

Only one of the dozens of cases showed a direct link to Asia, although that patient’s case was suspected to have stemmed from a cluster in Washington.

The central Chinese city of Wuhan was locked down in January after the virus originated in the metropolis last year.

But COVID-19 might have arrived in New York earlier than was once realized. Researchers at Mount Sinai said that they believe the virus likely entered the city in late January, given the variety in cases.

The scientists sequenced cases identified through March 18, using infrastructure built up for flu research. Their report is awaiting publication on the digital journal medRxiv.

A study compiled with a separate sample set by scientists at NYU Langone Health also indicated that the New York City outbreak came from Europe.

New York City has become the epicenter of the global pandemic, although officials have suggested that the local outbreak may be reaching its peak.

New York’s statewide coronavirus death toll has eclipsed 7,000, and the daily count almost hit 800 in the latest tally, Gov. Cuomo said Thursday.

Originally published