Coronavirus began spreading in California as early as December, official says

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A silent spreader?

In California, the novel coronavirus may have begun spreading — albeit quietly — since December, at least a month before the first U.S. case was confirmed in Washington state, a local official in the state recently said.

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“The virus was freewheeling in our community and probably has been here for quite some time,” Dr. Jeff Smith, a physician and chief executive of Santa Clara County government, reportedly said during a recent briefing with county leaders, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Smith, citing data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), local health departments and beyond, later told the paper in an interview that the virus was possibly circulating in the Bay Area “a lot longer than we first believed,” and possibly “since back in December.”

But, he noted, “This wasn’t recognized because we were having a severe flu season.”

“Symptoms are very much like the flu. If you got a mild case of COVID, you didn’t really notice. You didn’t even go to the doctor. The doctor maybe didn’t even do it because they presumed it was the flu,” he added.

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The Bay Area did not report its first case of community spread until Feb. 27, and most of the positive cases thereafter “pointed toward local spread,” the Los Angeles Times reported.

“That means the virus is in the community already — not, as was suspected by the CDC, as only in China and being spread from contact with China,” Smith said during the meeting with county leaders, according to the outlet.