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Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The National Institutes of Health said Tuesday morning that testing of samples from an ongoing study of Americans show a very limited number of cases of SARS-CoV-2 infection in five U.S. states as early as Jan. 7, 2020.

Why it matters: Calling it another "piece of the puzzle" of when and how the coronavirus pandemic began, the NIH researchers say this offers more evidence that the virus was in the U.S. at the end of December.

The latest: Researchers for the long-term project All of Us, which was created to reach out to underrepresented communities and build a diverse health database, tested 24,079 blood samples that had been gathered in 50 states before the pandemic shut down face-to-face services on March 18, 2020.

  • They found antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 in nine samples, confirmed via two separate platforms to minimize false positives, per the study published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.
  • They were not found in the main hubs of later hotspot activity, in New York and Seattle, but instead the nine samples were located in Illinois, Mississippi, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

What they're saying: "Our study doesn't speak to the overall origin of the virus," says Sheri Schully, a co-author of the paper and acting chief medical and scientific officer of All of Us.

  • "We haven't followed up with these participants to know if they had traveled outside the U.S., or had contact with folks who traveled outside the U.S. But, it is important, for future pandemic planning, to know what's happening during periods of low prevalence in epidemics, such as this," Schully tells Axios.
  • She says they did not examine samples prior to Jan. 2, 2020. But, this does add further data to a prior study by the CDC indicating some Americans may have been infected in December 2019.

The bottom line: "We continue to add more pieces to this story about low levels of disease and infection prior to the recognition of the epidemic at larger magnitude," Keri Althoff, co-author and associate professor at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, tells Axios.

Go deeper: NIH expands its COVID-19 research in underrepresented communities

Go deeper

Updated 13 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Vaccines: Benefits of J&J COVID-19 vaccine outweigh risks, per CDC data — Why vaccinated America can't turn its back on unvaccinated America.
  2. Health: A reality check on the GOP's push for coronavirus antibody testing — NYC to require COVID vaccination or weekly testing for city workers — Over 50 medical groups call for mandatory vaccinations for health care workers — Savannah reimposes indoor mask mandate.
  3. Politics: Biden: Americans with long-COVID symptoms may qualify for disability resources — Prominent Republicans find new enthusiasm for COVID-19 vaccines — GOP Rep. Clay Higgins says he has COVID for second time.
  4. Sports: Golfer Bryson DeChambeau will miss Olympics after testing positive for COVID— NFL raises vaccine pressure
  5. World: Israel to require vaccine certificates to attend social events.
  6. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.

Republicans push to sanction Chinese officials over Wuhan lab probe

Rep. Elise Stefanik. Photo: Samuel Corum/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Two House Republicans — including Conference Chair Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) — are introducing a bill Tuesday to sanction top Chinese health officials until they allow an investigation into whether the coronavirus originated in a Wuhan lab, according to a copy of the bill text obtained by Axios.

Why it matters: The lab-leak theory has regained prominence in both the scientific and political worlds, after the Wall Street Journal reported that three scientists who worked at the Wuhan Institute of Virology experienced COVID-19 symptoms in November 2019.

Jun 15, 2021 - Health

Congress members hold moment of silence for Americans who died of COVID

Rep. Ilhan Omar (center) tears up as members of Congress hold a moment of silence for the American lives lost to COVID-19 on the steps of the U.S. Capitol on Monday. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

A bipartisan group of lawmakers gathered on the steps of the U.S. Capitol building to honor American lives lost to COVID-19, as the country's pandemic death toll on Monday neared 600,000.

Of note: The milestone comes as the number of deaths from the coronavirus continue to drop, along with cases and hospitalizations — something Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) noted on the Senate floor before gathering with other lawmakers, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), to hold a moment of silence.