Findings of research into the novel coronavirus's spread around the globe suggest the virus first arrived in New York this past winter from Europe, not China.
Researchers say the virus was likely spreading unchecked in Italy for weeks before the country began shutting down. Since the first detection of the virus in Europe in January, there were 13,000 flights from Europe to New York and New Jersey airports. As a result, there could have been as many as 28,000 undetected U.S. cases in February, including 10,000 in New York.
Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the findings at his daily press briefing Friday morning, appearing to draw comparisons between the disparity in COVID-19 cases on the east and west coasts.
While President Trump banned travel to the U.S. from China in January, European travel wasn't restricted until mid-March. Cuomo says the U.S. erred in assuming the virus was only a Chinese problem and New York — a travel hub between the two continents — is paying the price.
"We closed the front door with the China travel ban, which was right...," Cuomo said, "but we left the back door open because the virus had left China [for Europe]."
Cuomo appeared to draw a hard line between his ongoing coordination with the White House and his blooming feud with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Sen. McConnell has become a punching bag for the governor this week over his opposition to sending federal aid to states financially ruined by the pandemic's economic ramifications.
McConnell suggested this week that COVID-19 was primarily a "blue state" problem and that those states should declare bankruptcy to save their economies.
“The flights from Europe were landing in New York, they weren’t landing in Kentucky," Cuomo said.
He noted that McConnell's home state reaps billions in federal aid annually from economic centers like New York. He added that it's against the law for a U.S. state to declare bankruptcy and he dared McConnell to introduce a bill to try and make it legal.
"You want to send a signal to that markets that this nation is in real trouble?" Cuomo said of McConnell's posture on a state bailout. "You want to send an international message that the economy is in turmoil? Do that. ...I dare you to do that. And then we'll see how many states actually take you up on it."
Preliminary results of an antibody study of New Yorkers announced Thursday found that an estimated 21.2 percent of NYC-residents had COVID-19 antibodies. Antibodies were found in an average of 14 percent throughout state, though the frequency was much higher in the greater NYC-area than upstate.
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