Trevor Bedford from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center was one of the first researchers to conclude that SARS-CoV-2 had been quietly circulating in the Seattle area and Bloomberg writes that Bedford and his colleagues are still using the virus's genome to track the pandemic's spread.
In late February, Bedford tweeted that his analysis of the virus's genome from a January case in Seattle and a later Seattle case suggested the later case was a direct descendant of the first, indicating the virus had been circulating undetected. He and his colleagues at Nextstrain — a website first established to track influenza strains and then other pathogens — are now working nonstop to track the virus, Bloomberg reports.
The University of Basel's Richard Neher, who helped found Nextstrain, tells Bloomberg that what is now happening in the rest of the US and Europe — clusters popping up at different locations — likely mirrors what occurred in the Seattle area: SARS-CoV-2 was already silently being spread in the locations that are now hotspots.
"We were thinking," Neher says, "it was all in China and China's problem, but that was not true."