U.S. travel restrictions came too late for the poor residents of the Life Care home in King County, Washington State.
Patient Zero, who very likely infected Washington State and beyond, arrived in my state, from Wuhan, China, on Jan. 15.
Thanks to the patient’s own diligence, he was tested on Jan. 20 and diagnosed with COVID-19. However, CDC contact tracing fell woefully short. As is done in South Korea and Israel, the man’s whereabouts—not his identity—ought to have been made public. In this way, anyone who had come in contact with the Man from Wuhan could have been quarantined and taken the necessary precautions to prevent further transmission.
Genetic sequencing of virus extracted from infected patients allows scientists to pinpoint the virus’ origins and the timing of the “seeding event.” That the virus that continues to kill poor old people in homes for the aged and the infirm in King County, WA, came from Wuhan is indisputable.
Writes Trevor Bedford, a sequencing scientist at the Fred Hutch Research Center: “The first case in the USA was … from a traveler directly returning from Wuhan to Snohomish County on Jan. 15.” But there was another traveler whose virus was related to that of Patient Zero, and who had,
exposed someone else to the virus in the period between Jan. 15 and Jan. 19, before they were isolated. If this second case was mild or asymptomatic, contact tracing efforts by public health would have had difficulty detecting it. After this point, community spread occurred and was undetected due to the CDC’s narrow case definition that required direct travel to China or direct contact with a known case to even be considered for testing. This lack of testing was a critical error and allowed an outbreak in Snohomish County and the surroundings to grow to a sizable problem before it was even detected.” [Emphasis mine.]
Colleagues confirm that the “genetic diversity of the Washington State outbreak … suggests a scenario in which an individual infected [from] Washington State travelled to California, and in particular to the Grand Princess cruiser, and instigated a chain of transmission there. The viral strain from a patient infected on the cruise ship off the coast of California is similar to the cluster circulating in Washington state.”
If only travel from China had been stopped earlier, the poor old people from the Life Care home might be alive, and the coronavirus would not be multiplying exponentially among us. …
* To its report, the AP appends an image of a “wet market,” adjacent to an up-market Chinese mall.