- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Ohio health officials have traced the state’s first probable case of the novel coronavirus to Jan. 7, two weeks before the first confirmed U.S. “patient zero” in Washington state.

Ohio Health Department Director Amy Acton said at a Monday press briefing that antibodies testing has found five people who contracted symptoms in January, a figure that the department has since updated to six.

“We actually have a new date of onset,” Ms. Acton said. “We have found five cases now that the date of onset of symptoms was in January. Five different cases so far, five different counties.”

State health officials had previously tracked the onset to March 10, when they announced three patients had tested positive in Cuyahoga County.

Ms. Acton added that the department is “doing a lot more investigation. Our disease detectives are going back to take a look at that. These diseases now, we can pick them up because of the antibody testing.”

Health Department spokesperson Melanie Amato’s office said Wednesday that the January cases are “considered probable,” not confirmed, because the people who tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies were not tested for the virus in January.

Those who carried the coronavirus antibodies gave estimates as to when they came down with symptoms from the disease, her office said.

The first case of COVID-19 was reported in December in Wuhan, China, while the first confirmed U.S. case was a Washington state man in his 30s who tested positive Jan. 21 after traveling to Wuhan.

Last week, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis said that the first case in his state was likely in January or February, not March 5, when the governor announced that a California man who came to Summit County for a ski vacation was “patient zero.”

The earlier estimated onset dates are relevant to health investigators and public officials as they seek to determine how many Americans carry antibodies that make them resistant to the novel coronavirus, contributing to a determination of herd immunity.

“We will learn more and more about this disease, how long it was here in Ohio, how long it was spreading, as we do more and more testing,” Ms. Acton said.

She also said that Ohio has reached a “plateau phase” in new cases as Gov. Mike DeWine seeks to reopen the state.

Ohio reported 25,250 cases of the novel coronavirus as of late Tuesday, with 4,539 hospitalizations and 1,436 deaths.

State data shows that there were probable cases as of Jan. 7 and Jan 26 in Miami County, Jan. 13 in Montgomery County, Jan. 18 in Richland County, Jan. 20 in Summit County, and Jan. 27 in Warren County, according to Cleveland.com.

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