Researchers from UCLA and their colleagues at the University of Washington documented an unmistakable uptick in patients seeking treatment for coughs. The increase began the week of Dec. 22, 2019, and persisted through the end of February.
Some of those patients were treated in outpatient centers. Others came to emergency rooms, and some were ultimately admitted to the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center or other hospitals operated by UCLA
“A significantly higher number of patients with respiratory complaints and diseases starting in late December 2019 and continuing through February 2020 suggests community spread of SARS-CoV-2 prior to established clinical awareness and testing capabilities,” wrote the team led by Dr. Joann Elmore, who is both an internist and professor of health policy and management at UCLA.
We now know that seven patients treated at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center in mid-March for a flu-like illness actually had COVID-19. The fact that they all felt well enough to leave their homes and had no clear ties to anyone who had recently visited a COVID-19 hotspot suggests they became infected through sustained community transmission, another group of researchers wrote in the Journal of the American Medical Assn.