New information from the Department of Homeland Security and National Travel and Tourism Office shows that at least 750,000 people traveled to the United States from China in the months after the first reported COVID-19 case — over 300,000 more than were previously reported.
On Monday, the New York Times reported that more than 430,000 people had entered the U.S. on direct flights from China after December 31, when the Chinese government first disclosed the mystery pneumonia-related illness to the country's World Health Organization office.
The report noted that the large majority of the passengers — more than 380,000 — entered the U.S. in January while the communist Chinese government was actively downplaying the growing pandemic and before President Trump banned travel from the country.
But the truth is that the illness had been circulating within the country for weeks prior to the disclosure. By New Year's Eve, when China opened up about the outbreak, officials indicated that at least 41 people had contracted the disease.
In a scientific study published in The Lancet, researchers noted that "the symptom onset date of the first patient identified was Dec. 1." Additionally, the South China Morning post reported that, according to government data, the first COVID-19 case could be traced back to Nov. 17.
From a public health standpoint, then, it is important for Americans to know just how many people entered the country from China in months following the first case — this includes at least December and possibly November.
According to information provided to TheBlaze upon request, in December, 329,210 passengers arrived in the U.S. on direct flights from China. When added to the 430,000 reported by the Times, that number exceeds 750,000. If part of November's total is included, the number jumps closer to one million.
Moreover, the figures listed above do not account for the number of passengers who arrived indirectly, departing from China on itineraries that stopped in a different country before landing in the U.S. A DHS spokeswoman told the Times that indirect fliers make up approximately one-quarter of travelers from China.
While Chinese obstruction has hindered the search for the true "patient zero," there is good reason to believe the outbreak began much earlier than initially reported. And if hundreds of thousands of travelers were flooding into the U.S. from China at the early stages of the outbreak, there is good reason to believe that the virus touched down in America much sooner than January 21, when the first confirmed case was reported here.
Americans are justified in wondering how many lives could have been spared had China been more forthcoming about the virus from the start.
In fact, a study released last month found that if preventive measures in China had been "conducted one week, two weeks, or three weeks earlier, cases could have been reduced by 66 percent, 86 percent and 95 percent respectively — significantly limiting the geographical spread of the disease."