Cartoon – Look at those Sheep

Editorial cartoon: Who are the real sheep in the face mask debate? |  Editorial | lakegenevanews.net

Cartoon – The Mindless Sheep

Hands on Wisconsin: Anti-maskers are the real sheep | Opinion |  lacrossetribune.com

Nashville nurse, two roommates charged in large Halloween house party

https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/local/2020/12/01/nashville-nurse-roommates-charged-boscobel-halloween-house-party/6474809002/

Nurse along with her two roommates hit with criminal charges for hosting a Halloween  party for 100 | Daily Mail Online

Nashville police are criminally charging three women including a registered nurse for violating Metro Health orders after hosting a large house party on Halloween.

Roommates Madilyn Dennington, Bailey Mills and Olivia Noe, all 23, were issued misdemeanor citations in connection with an Oct. 31 football watch party at their East Nashville home on the 1200 block of Boscobel Street south of Fatherland Street.

Police spokesman Don Aaron said the women were served with court summonses on Monday and are slated to appear on the charges Dec. 16.

According to an arrest affidavit, officers responded about 6:30 p.m. to a complaint about a loud party at the home, heard music blaring and saw several people in the yard. In all, police said they found more than 100 people inside and outside the home.

When officers spoke to Dennington, Mills and Noe outside, they told police they had organized a watch party at their home for a football game, the affidavit states. The officers told the women that at that time, no more than 25 people were permitted to gather in Davidson County unless the gathering was approved by the city.

The women then went inside and told everyone to leave, police reported.

Police then alerted Metro Health officials about the party. Hugh Atkins, Metro Health’s environmental health services director, confirmed the Health Department did not receive an event application for the gathering.

Early last week, Nashville instituted a “rule of eight,” limiting both public and private events to eight people as the holidays approached — down from the previous 25-person cap. Tighter capacity restrictions on restaurants and bars went into effect in the city on Monday.

On Tuesday, Davidson County reportedan increase of 851 cases in 24 hours — the second-highest ever daily increase. So far 369 people in Nashville have died from the virus.

Meanwhile, Monday’s statewide numbers marked a record high increase in cases. The Tennessee Department of Health announced an increase of 7,975 cases and 48 deaths over the previous 24 hours. So far the virus had caused 4,602 deaths statewide.

A nurse and her roommates

Dennington is a registered nurse at TriStar Skyline Medical Center, authorities said. 

It was not immediately known whether the hospital had taken any disciplinary action against Dennington. She did not return an immediate request for comment and blocked her Facebook page from a Tennessean reporter shortly after being contacted.

“Properly following pandemic regulations is extremely important to help reduce the spread of COVID-19,” Anna-Lee Cockrill, a spokeswoman for TriStar, said regarding the party. “We are looking into this further.”

According to their social media pages, all three roommates formerly attended the University of Mississippi before moving to Nashville, and Dennington and Noe both graduated from the University of Mississippi Medical Center.

Noe and Mills also could not immediately be reached for comment.

More than 50 arrests, 315 citations

Police data shows at least 50 people have been arrested and more than 315 have been cited under local emergency health orders that went into effect earlier this year.

Just this weekend, Nashville police issued nine citations and made one arrest after people refused to wear face masks in public, a mandated action in Davidson County.

As of late November at least dozen people had been arrested on Class A misdemeanor charges after police said they held large house parties and events. Some of them entertained as many as 600 people at a time, police reported. If convicted, they face up to a year in jail and a $2,500 fine.

As of Tuesday, only one of the arrested defendants had pleaded guilty: Jeffrey Mathews, a 36-year-old Goodlettsville dentist arrested for throwing an Aug. 1 house party on Fern Avenue in East Nashville. He was one of two men criminally charged for the party that drew hundreds.

Mathews, who apologized for his actions, was sentenced to three months of probation and eight hours of community service. His co-defendant, Christopher “Shi” Eubank, 40, remained at large Tuesday after failing to appear in court in October for a hearing on three counts of violating emergency health orders.

This is a developing story.

U.S. exceeds 100,000 COVID-related hospitalizations

https://www.axios.com/us-100000-covid-19-hospitalizations-first-time-6c7a6544-1d18-4d63-9f0e-499a44c3f444.html

eople wait outside the Emergency room of the Garfield Medical Center in Monterey Park, California on December 1.

More than 100,200 Americans were hospitalized as of Wednesday due to the coronavirus for the first time since the outbreak began in early 2020, per the COVID Tracking Project.

The big picture: The milestone comes as health officials anticipated cases to surge due to holiday travel and gatherings. The impact of the holiday remains notable, as many states across the country are only reporting partial data.

Flashback: The daily rate of new coronavirus infections rose by about 10% in week leading up to Thanksgiving, continuing a dismal trend that may get even worse in the weeks to come.

  • Before the Thanksgiving holiday, the COVID Tracking Project warned of a “double-weekend pattern.
  • “Far fewer people will be tested on Thanksgiving Day, and perhaps on the day after as well, and then the usual weekend pattern will begin,” it said.
  • “Death reporting, too, will slow down for an unknown number of days.”

What to watch: That backlog is expected to clear sometime this week, resulting in a potentially confusing surge on all metrics in the meantime.

By the numbers: The U.S. reported 13.7 million cases (confirmed and probable), 1.4 million tests, 196,000 cases and 2,733 deaths on Wednesday.

  • To date, 264,522 people in the country have died from the virus.
  • California confirmed more than 20,000 COVID-19 infections on Wednesday — the highest daily case count for any state so far during the pandemic.
  • Wednesday’s death count is the second highest on record since May 7, and marks the first time deaths have topped 5,000 over a two-day stretch.

Coronavirus hospitalizations top 100,000 for the first time

https://www.axios.com/coronavirus-hospitalizations-pandemic-cases-outbreak-bad-1ce7ea5e-15a6-43d2-addd-92cb5eee534f.html

U.S. Covid hospitalizations top 100,000, an 'unfathomable' milestone

More than 100,000 Americans are now in the hospital with coronavirus infections — a new record, an indication that the pandemic is continuing to get worse and a reminder that the virus is still very dangerous.

Why it matters: Hospitalizations are a way to measure severe illnesses — and severe illnesses are on the rise across the U.S. In some areas, health systems and health care workers are already overwhelmed, and outbreaks are only getting worse.

By the numbers: For weeks, every available data point has said the same thing — that the pandemic is as bad as it’s ever been in the U.S.

  • Yesterday’s grim new milestone represents an 11% increase in hospitalizations over the past week, and a 26% jump over the past two weeks.
  • Hospitalizations are rising in 38 states, in some cases reaching unsustainable levels.

A staggering 29% of all the hospital beds in Nevada are occupied by coronavirus patients, the highest rate in the country.

  • That represents an enormous influx of new patients, on top of all the other people who are in the hospital for other reasons — which puts a serious strain on hospitals’ overall capacity, and on the doctors and nurses who staff them.
  • Fueled by that surge in coronavirus patients, 77% of Nevada’s inpatient beds and 80% of its intensive-care beds are now in use, according to federal data. And coronavirus infections are continuing to rise, so many more beds will soon be full.

Between the lines: Many rural areas already have more patients than they can handle, prompting local hospitals to send their coronavirus patients to the nearest city with some capacity left to spare. But as cases keep rising, everyone’s capacity shrinks.

  • In New Mexico, for example, coronavirus patients are using 27% of hospital beds. To put that number in perspective: It’s a surge that has left the entire state with just 16 ICU beds left to spare.

Coronavirus patients are also filling 20% of the hospital beds in Colorado and Arizona. And in 32 more states, at least 10% of all hospital beds have a coronavirus patient in them.

How it works: Each week, Axios has been tracking the change in new coronavirus cases. But the Thanksgiving holiday disrupted states’ reporting of those numbers, and we’re afraid that could paint a distorted picture this week.

  • The holiday led to some significant reporting delays, which would make the number of new cases seem artificially low — and then when states report that backlog of data all at once, the spike in cases could be artificially high.
  • Hospitalization data is not subject to the same reporting issues, so we’re using that this week as a more reliable measure of where the pandemic stands.

Cartoon – Greatest Covid Symptom

Michael Ramirez: In Denial - The Virginian-Pilot - The Virginian-Pilot

Biden Closes In on Top Health Leaders as Pandemic Ravages U.S.

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-12-02/biden-closes-in-on-top-health-leaders-as-pandemic-ravages-u-s

President-elect Joe Biden’s front-runner for secretary of Health and Human Services is New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, and he may announce several of his administration’s health leaders as soon as next week, according to people familiar with the matter.

The position of HHS secretary is down to two possibilities, the people said, between Lujan Grisham and former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, a co-chair of the coronavirus advisory board Biden appointed shortly after he was elected.

Biden’s health team will assume office with the U.S. still suffering from the pandemic, as virus cases and hospitalizations soared over the past month. His health secretary is expected to have input on filling other top health posts, such as FDA commissioner and the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the people said, so those appointments may not be announced until later.

The Health and Human Services secretary will have the tough task of rebuilding Obamacare, which Biden has promised to expand. That will be a difficult undertaking with a Republican-led Senate.

Murthy or Jeff Zients, who led the Obama administration effort to repair healthcare.gov, the faulty Obamacare website, may be named to a leadership role on the pandemic, according to the people familiar with the matter — a “Covid-19 czar.”

Mandy Cohen, the North Carolina state health secretary, is a favorite for CMS, the people said. Biden’s choices to lead the Food and Drug Administration appear narrowed down to David Kessler, a former commissioner of the agency who is another co-chair of his coronavirus advisory board, and Joshua Sharfstein, a former FDA official who is a vice dean at Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Biden announced his economic team on Tuesday, a group led by Treasury Secretary-designate Janet Yellen whose top priority will be restoring jobs eliminated by the pandemic. An announcement on some of his health team could come as soon as Monday, the people said.

The people familiar with the matter asked not to be identified because talks are still ongoing and no final decision has been made. It’s not clear how many people will be announced at once, or which positions would later be filled by the health secretary once the Biden administration is in place.

Biden’s transition team did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The U.S. recorded 158,000 new coronavirus infections on Monday and a record 205,000 cases three days earlier. Biden will take office as distribution of coronavirus vaccines ramps up, and he has warned that any delay in the transition to his administration could slow or complicate that endeavor.

Lujan Grisham is seen as having an easier path to confirmation than Murthy, who has spoken out against gun violence as a public health threat and may draw strong opposition from Senate Republicans as a result, the people familiar with the matter said.

If he isn’t nominated to lead HHS, Murthy is under consideration as Covid-19 czar or another role, including a second stint as surgeon general, the people said. Murthy talks to Biden almost every day as co-chair of his advisory board and is seen as having influential supporters.

Murthy and Zients have also represented Biden’s transition team on calls with current HHS officials, two of the people said.

Biden’s team is still discussing what the White House coronavirus task force and Operation Warp Speed — the Trump administration’s effort to fast-track vaccines — will look like under the new administration.

If Biden announces his health team next week, he may be just days ahead of the first emergency FDA approval of a coronavirus vaccine. President Donald Trump is planning a vaccine summit next week at the White House, while an FDA advisory panel is scheduled to meet on Dec. 10 to discuss the shots.

HEALTH OFFICIALS FACE DEATH THREATS FROM CORONAVIRUS DENIERS

https://theintercept.com/2020/12/01/covid-health-officials-death-threats/

As people across the country refuse mask mandates, public health officials are fighting an uphill battle with little government support.

DR. MEGAN SRINIVAS was attending a virtual American Medical Association discussion around the “Mask Up” initiative one evening in July when she began to receive frantic messages from her parents begging her to confirm to them that she was all right.

“Somebody obtained my father’s unlisted cell phone number and spoofed him, making it look like it was a phone call coming from my phone,” she told Des Moines’s Business Record for a November profile. “Essentially they insinuated that they had harmed me and were on the way to their house to harm them.”

This malicious hoax, made possible by doxxing Srinivas’s private information, was only the most severe instance of abuse and harassment she had endured since she became a more visible proponent of mask-wearing and other mitigation measures at the beginning of Covid-19 pandemic. A Harvard-educated infectious disease physician and public health researcher on the faculty of the University of North Carolina, Srinivas currently lives and works in Fort Dodge, her hometown of 24,000 situated in the agricultural heart of northwest Iowa.

Srinivas is not just a national delegate for the AMA, but a prominent face of Covid-19 spread prevention locally, appearing on panels and local news segments. Fort Dodge itself is situated deep within Iowa’s 4th Congressional District, a staunchly conservative area that simply replaced white supremacist Rep. Steve King with a more palatable Republican.Join Our NewsletterOriginal reporting. Fearless journalism. Delivered to you.I’m in

Basic health measures promoted by Srinivas in Iowa since the beginning of the pandemic have been politicized along the same fault lines as they have across the rest of the country. Some remain in the middle ground, indifferent to health guidelines out deep attachment to “normal” pre-pandemic life. Others have either embraced spread-prevention strategies like mask-wearing or refused to acknowledge the existence of the virus at all. In a red state like Iowa, an eager audience for President Donald Trump’s misinformation about the dangers of the coronavirus has made the latter far more common, which has made Srinivas’s job more difficult and more dangerous.

“It was startling at first, the volume at which [these threats were] happening,” Srinivas told The Intercept. “I know people get very heated about politics and the issues that people advocate for in general, but especially on something like this where it’s merely trying to provide a public service, a way people can protect themselves and their loved ones and community based on medical objective facts. That’s surprising that this is the reaction people have.”

“I have trolls like other people, I’ve been doxxed, I’ve gotten death threats,” she said. “When you say anything people don’t want to hear, there will be trolls and there will be people who will try to argue against you. The death threats were something I wish I could say were new, but when I’ve done things like this in the past, I’ve had people say not-so-nice things in the past when I’ve had advocacy issues.”An untenable pressure has been placed on public health workers thrust in a politicized health crisis — and that pressure only appears to be worsening.

At the same time, as an Iowa native, Srinivas has been able to gain some trust through tapping into local networks like Facebook. Though she has encountered a great deal of anger, she’s also seen success in the form of a son who’s managed to convince his diabetic father, a priest, to hold off on reopening his church thanks to her advice, and through someone who’s been allowed to work from home based on recommendations Srinivas made on a panel.

“At this point, almost everyone knows at least one person that’s been infected. Unfortunately, it leads to a higher proportion of the population who knows someone who’s not just been infected, but who’s had serious ramification driven by the disease,” Srinivas said. “So it’s come to the point where, as people are experiencing the impact of the disease closer to home, they’re starting to understand the true impact and starting to be willing to listen to recommendations.”

Without cooperation and support at the state level, however, what Srinivas can accomplish on her own is limited. Even as the number of Covid-19 cases grew and put an increasing strain on Iowa’s hospitals over the past few months, it took until after the November election for Iowa’s Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds to tighten Iowa’s mask guidance. And board members in Webster County, where Srinivas lives, only admitted in November that she had been right to advocate for a mask mandate all along. Though Trump lost the election nationally, he won Iowa by a considerable margin, which Reynolds has claimed as a vindication of her “open for business” attitude and has continued downplaying the pandemic’s severity.

“The issue with her messaging is it creates a leader in the state that should be trusted who’s giving out misinformation,” Srinivas said. “Naturally, people who don’t necessarily realize that this is misinformation because it’s not their area of expertise want to follow what their leader is saying. That’s a huge issue under the entire public health world right now, where we have a governor that is spreading falsehood like this.”

The embattled situation in which Srinivas has found herself is the new normal for public health officials attempting to stem the tide of a deadly viral outbreak, particularly in the middle of country where the pandemic winter is already deepening. Advocating for simple, potentially lifesaving measures has become a politically significant act, working to inform the public means navigating conflicting regulatory bodies, and doing your job means making yourself publicly vulnerable to an endless stream of vitriol and even death threats. The result across the board is that an untenable pressure has been placed on public health workers thrust in a politicized health crisis — and that pressure only appears to be worsening.

DESPITE THE FACT that Wisconsin’s stay-at-home order was nullified by the state’s Supreme Court in May, the Dane County Health Department has used its ability to exercise local control in an attempt to install mitigation measures that go beyond those statewide. By issuing a mask mandate ahead of a statewide rule and advocating for education and compliance efforts, the department currently considers itself in a good place regarding health guideline compliance.

These actions have drawn a lot of ire from those unhappy with the regulations, however. According to a communications representative for the department, anti-maskers have held a protest on a health officer’s front lawn, a staff member was “verbally assaulted” in a gas station parking lot (an incident that prompted the department to advise its employees to only wear official clothing to testing sites), and employees performing compliance checks on businesses have been told to never perform these checks alone after “instances of business owners get a little too close for comfort.” They’ve also received a number of emails accusing health workers of being “Nazis,” “liars,” “political pawns,” and purely “evil.”

In Kansas’s Sedgwick County, Wichita — the largest city in the state — has been considering new lockdown measures after a November surge in coronavirus cases has threatened to overwhelm its hospitals. Though Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly attempted to instate a mask mandate in July, 90 of the state’s 105 counties rejected it, including Sedgwick, though the health board issued its own directive and Wichita had installed its own at the city level.

Now, with cases surging again, just as Srinivas saw the number of believers rising as more got sick, counties in Kansas that previously resisted mask mandates are changing their tune after Kelly announced a new mandate. But Sedgwick County health officials see an intractable line in the sand when it comes to who’s on board with mitigation measures and are focused more on what those who are already on board need to be told.

“It seems like a lot of the naysayers are naysayers and the supporters are supporters,” Adrienne Byrne, director of Sedgwick County Health Department, said. “There’s some people that are just kind of whatever about it. We just remind people to wear masks, it does make a difference. As we’ve gone on, studies have shown that it works.”

“I think it’s important to acknowledge to people that it is tiring, to acknowledge and validate their experience that people want to be over this stuff, but it’s important to reinforce that we are in a marathon,” she said. “In the beginning, we all wanted to hear that we would reach a magical date and we would be done with this stuff.”

Sedgwick has managed the streams of angry messages but has seen her colleagues in rural counties endure far worse, including death threats. She knows of one public health worker in Kansas who quit after being threatened, and others who have cited the strain of the politicized pandemic as their reason for leaving the public health profession.

“We’re certainly losing some health officials, there’s no question about that,” said Georges Benjamin, president of the American Public Health Association. “In the long arc of history, public health officials are pretty resilient. And while it absolutely will dissuade people from entering the field, we all need to do a better job of equipping them for these issues in the future.”

Benjamin would like to see institutional and public support for public health workers resemble that given to police or firefighters, government professionals who are well-funded, believed to be essential to the functioning of society, and wielding a certain level of authority.

“For elected officials who are charged with protecting the officials and their public officials, our message to officials then is that they should protect their employees,” Benjamin said.

IN RURAL NEBRASKA, the situation has presented even more complex challenges to public health workers. Outside of Omaha, the rural expanse is ruled by a deeply entrenched conservatism and, like Iowa’s governor Reynolds, Nebraska’s Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts has resisted a mask mandate. The Two Rivers Public Health Department, which oversees a wide swath of central Nebraska and its biggest population center, Kearney (population 33,000), is a popular pit stop along the Interstate 80 travel corridor and home to a University of Nebraska outpost.

Prior to the pandemic, Nebraska’s decentralized public health system had seen significant atrophy, according to Two Rivers Health Director Jeremy Eschliman, and was wholly unprepared for this level of public health event. There were few epidemiologists to be found outside of Omaha, though the department was able to hire one earlier this year. It also became clear early on that, despite the department’s traditionally strong ties with local media, messaging around the pandemic would be an uphill battle to get people to adapt new habits, especially when the president was telling them otherwise.

“There was one clear instance I remember when I caught a bit of heckling when I said, ‘Hey, this is serious. We’re going to see significant death is what the models show at this point in time,’” Eschliman said. “[The station said], ‘Are you serious? That seems way out in left field’ or something to that effect. That station had a very conservative following and that was the information they received.”

Eschliman has taken a realistic stance to promoting mask-wearing, thinking of it as akin to smoking. (“You could walk up to 10 people and try to tell them to quit smoking and you’re not going to get all 10 to quit,” he said. “Fun fact: You’re not going to get more than maybe one to even quit for a small period of time.”) Over the summer, he traveled just over Nebraska’s southern border into Colorado, where he was struck by the night-and-day difference between his neighbor state’s adoption of mask-wearing and Nebraskan indifference to it, each following the directives of their state leaders.“It’s become very difficult to do the right thing when you don’t have the political support to do so.”

Home rule is the law of the land in Nebraska, and there’s been strong rural opposition to mask mandates, despite more liberal population centers like Lincoln and Omaha installing their own. It’s taken Kearney until November 30 to finally install its own after outbreaks at the college and in nursing homes. Public health care workers have also been left on their own to make controversial decisions that have caused political friction. In May, the local health board voted not to share public health information with cities and first responders due to what they decided were issues of information confidentiality.

“Mayors, county board members, and police chiefs ran a sort of a smear campaign against me and the organization,” Eschliman said. “So when we talk about resiliency, that’s what we’re dealing with. It’s become very difficult to do the right thing when you don’t have the political support to do so.”

Even having a Democratic governor doesn’t necessarily ensure that support. In Hill County, a sparsely populated region of Montana’s “Hi-Line” country along the Canadian border, Sanitarian Clay Vincent supports Gov. Steve Bullock’s mask mandate, but doesn’t understand why it exists if it’s not enforceable. The way he sees it, if laws are made, they should create consequences for those who refuse to follow them.

But Vincent and the Hill County Health Board also saw what happened elsewhere in the state, in Flathead County, where lawsuits were brought against five businesses who refused to follow Bullock’s mask mandate. After a judge threw the lawsuit out, those businesses launched a countersuit against the state, alleging damages. In order to bring businesses in Hill County into compliance with the mask mandate, the health board is considering slapping them with signs identifying them as health risks or, barring that, simply asking them to explain their refusal to comply.

“These are community members. Everybody knows everybody and [the board isn’t] trying to make more of a division between those who are and those who are not, but I come back to the fact that public laws are put there for the main reason to protect the public from infectious diseases,” Vincent said. “You have to support the laws, or people sooner or later don’t give any credence to the public health in general.”

Regardless of whether they can push the Hill County businesses into compliance, the political winds are already changing in Montana. Republican Gov.-elect Greg Gianforte will take power in January and likely bring the party’s aversion to mask mandates with him. President-elect Joe Biden will take power at the same time, and even if he attempts to install a nationwide mask mandate, it will likely be difficult to enforce and may end up meaning little out in Montana. It will also likely exacerbate ongoing tensions in communities throughout the state. The building that houses Hill County Health Department in the town of Havre was already closed this summer out of fear that a local group opposed to the mask mandate and nurses doing contract tracing are routinely threatened in the course doing their jobs.

Regardless, Vincent is determined to encourage and enforce public health guidelines as much as it’s in his power to do so, no matter the backlash. He sees protecting the public as no different than preventing any other kind of disease. “I don’t care if it’s hepatitis or HIV or tuberculosis or any of these things,” he said. “You’re expected to deal with those and make sure it’s not affecting the public. Otherwise you have a disaster.”

Cartoon – U.S. Covid 19 Response

Bad Leader Cartoons and Comics - funny pictures from CartoonStock

COVID-19 was silently spreading across US as early as December 2019, CDC study says

https://www.yahoo.com/news/covid-19-silently-spreading-across-193716206.html

Antibodies show US COVID cases can be traced to December 2019 | Miami Herald

The first confirmed coronavirus case in the U.S. was reported on Jan. 19 in a Washington man after returning from Wuhan, China, where the first outbreak of COVID-19 occurred.

Now, data from a new government study paints a different picture — the coronavirus may have been silently spreading in America as early as December 2019.

Researchers with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention collected 7,389 blood samples from routine donations to the American Red Cross between Dec. 13, 2019 and Jan. 17, 2020.

Of the samples, 106 contained coronavirus antibodies, suggesting those individuals’ immune systems battled COVID-19 at some point.

A total of 39 donations carrying coronavirus antibodies came from residents in the western states of California, Oregon and Washington and 67 samples from the more eastern states of Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, Rhode Island and Wisconsin.

The study, published Monday in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, adds to growing evidence that the coronavirus had been spreading right under our noses long before testing could confirm it.

“The presence of these serum antibodies indicate that isolated SARS-CoV-2 infections may have occurred in the western portion of the United States earlier than previously recognized or that a small portion of the population may have pre-existing antibodies that bind SARS-CoV-2,” the study reads.

However, the researchers say “widespread community transmission was not likely until late February.”

Some of these early infections may have gone unnoticed because patients with mild or asymptomatic cases may not have sought medical care at the time, the researchers explain in the study. Sick patients with symptoms who did visit a doctor may not have had a respiratory sample collected, so appropriate testing may not have been conducted.

But the researchers wonder if the detection of antibodies in these patient samples really does indicate a past coronavirus infection, and not of another pathogen in the coronavirus family, such as the common cold.

A study published in August found that people who have had the common cold could have cells in their immune systems that might be able to recognize those of the novel coronavirus, McClatchy News reported.

Scientists behind the finding say this “memory” of viruses past could explain why some people are only slightly affected by COVID-19, while others get severely sick.

The researchers call this phenomenon “cross reactivity,” but they note it’s just one of several limitations to their study. The team also said they can’t tell if the COVID-19 cases were community- or travel-associated and that none of the antibody results can be considered “true positives.”

“A true positive would only be collected from an individual with a positive molecular diagnostic test,” the researchers wrote in the study.

Back in May, doctors in Paris also learned the coronavirus had been silently creeping around Europe a month before the official first-known cases were diagnosed in the region.

The first two cases — with known travel to China — in France were reported Jan. 24, but after testing frozen samples from earlier patient records, doctors realized a man with no recent travel had the coronavirus in December.