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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

New research suggests that the coronavirus outbreak in Washington state was likely started by someone who came to the U.S. in mid-February, not by the first confirmed infection in the country, STAT reports.

Why it matters: The research indicates that the U.S. could have been more successful in mitigating community spread of the virus had it acted sooner.

  • Some scientists had originally thought that the outbreak was tied to the first coronavirus patient in the U.S., who traveled from Wuhan to Washington state on Jan. 15.
  • If that had been the case, there would have been little more that could have been done to stop the spread, especially because public health officials had traced his contacts and quarantined them.
  • The upside of the new research is that these efforts were probably successful.

Yes, but: It also means that there was a weeks-long gap between when the virus was first detected in the U.S. and when it began spreading rampantly — a gap that the U.S. failed to take advantage of.

  • "Our finding ... is sobering, since it demonstrates that the window of opportunity to block sustained transmission of the virus stretched all the way until" mid-February, the authors wrote in the paper, which has not yet been peer-reviewed.

The bottom line: "Everything is sort of lining up in the direction that if we're serious about it, we can control this thing," Samuel Scarpino, an assistant professor at Northeastern University's Network Science Institute, told STAT.

  • "We're just not being serious about it."

Go deeper: Coronavirus antibodies could give "short-term immunity," but more data is needed

Go deeper

Colleges drive a new wave of coronavirus hotspots

Expand chart
Data: The COVID Tracking Project, state health departments; Note: Washington state case count does not include Sept. 1; Map: Andrew Witherspoon, Sara Wise/Axios

America’s brief spurt of progress in containing the coronavirus has stalled out.

Why it matters: We had a nice little run of improvement over the past month or so, but cases are now holding steady at a rate that’s still far too high to consider the outbreak under control.

Updated Oct 7, 2020 - Health

World coronavirus updates

Expand chart
Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Axios Visuals

New Zealand now has active no coronavirus cases in the community after the final six people linked to the Auckland cluster recovered, the country's Health Ministry confirmed in an email Wednesday.

The big picture: The country's second outbreak won't officially be declared closed until there have been "no new cases for two incubation periods," the ministry said. Auckland will join the rest of NZ in enjoying no domestic restrictions from late Wednesday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said, declaring that NZ had "beat the virus again."

How "COVID fatigue" clouds judgment and endangers public health

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Compounded stress and exhaustion from worrying about the coronavirus pandemic since the start of the year is leading to "COVID fatigue" and serious mental health issues, some medical experts say.

Why it matters: This can lead to risky behavior that can increase the spread of the coronavirus as well as raise levels of depression and anxiety that foment the abuse of alcohol or drugs.