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‘An unmitigated disaster’: America’s year of Covid

On 20 January 2020, the US saw its first confirmed coronavirus case – the beginning of a tsunami of infection that Trump failed to properly address

At around 5pm on 20 January 2020, Dr George Diaz received a call from the federal health protection agency, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), bearing alarming news. They had just logged a positive test for a new strain of coronavirus in a 35-year-old man who had recently returned to Washington state from Wuhan, China. CDC officials wanted to bring the patient in to Diaz’s hospital, Providence Regional medical center in Everett, outside Seattle.

Many people taking that call would have hit the panic button. The positive test was the first ever recorded in the US for this frightening new strain of disease. The virus was so novel it still had no name other than 2019-nCoV, and no one could say for sure how infectious it was, how it was transmitted and critically just how deadly it would prove to be.

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