New York City announced its first confirmed COVID-19 case on March 1, but there could have been nearly 11,000 infections in the city already by that time, the New York Times reported Thursday.
Citing new model data given to the paper by Northeastern University in Boston, the Times also reported there could have been more than 28,000 infections in five major U.S. cities by March 1, at a time when those cities were only reporting a total of 23 cases.
The Northeastern data also suggests that the first infections could have hit New York City as early as late January. The CDC said January 17 it would start screening travelers entering JFK from China for the new virus.
The report adds to a growing body of evidence that the novel coronavirus was present and spreading in the United States far earlier than previously known. Officials in northern California confirmed this week that someone died of COVID-19 on Feb. 6, more than three weeks before what had been the first public report of a U.S. death.
New York City remains the U.S. epicenter of the pandemic, with roughly 20 percent of the nation's cases and fatalities.