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Researchers say COVID-19 could have been in U.S. back in December 2019 based on data

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New research from doctors at UCLA's David Geffen School of Medicine and the UW School of Public Health in Seattle estimates SARS-CoV-2 could have been in the United States as far back as December. PHOTO: FOX 17 News

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WZTV) — New research from doctors at UCLA's David Geffen School of Medicine and the UW School of Public Health in Seattle estimates SARS-CoV-2 could have been in the United States as far back as December.

The researchers examined U.S. health system data representing 2.5 million patient visits each year from July 2014 to February 29, 2020. They then examined the number of excess hospital visits and clinic visits last winter and compared it to previous seasons.

They found for the week of December 22, 2019 there were excessive visits by patients including "cough" as their reason for visiting the doctor or hospital. These excessive rates continued for the 10 weeks following into February 2020.

The report, published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research (JMIR), states "A significantly higher number of patients with respiratory complaints and diseases starting in late December 2019 and continuing through February 2020 suggests community spread of SARS-CoV-2 prior to established clinical awareness and testing capabilities."