COVID-19 began circulating in the US in November 2019, causing increased reports of influenza like illness (ILI).


False. The first US case of COVID-19 was reported in January 2020 and there is no evidence linking COVID-19 to the early flu season start.


In a video livestreamed on YouTube, an investigative reporter uses data published by the U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to support her claim that rising numbers of influenza like illness (ILI) in late 2019 can be attributed to COVID-19 and not simply an early start to the US flu season. To this effect, she declares to have shown “pretty solid evidence that this virus was in the United States of America, circulating amongst the population, in November [2019]”.

The CDC did indeed announce that the US 2019-20 flu season started unusually early. It was also atypical for the influenza B strain to be causing most illnesses. However, there is no evidence to link these events to the presence of coronavirus in the US. The CDC cautions that ‘the timing and severity of influenza in the United States can vary widely from season to season’ and according to the WHO ‘this new virus and disease were unknown before the outbreak began in Wuhan, China, in December 2019’.

To explain how COVID-19 first came to the US, the speaker theorises that the virus infected the US military during the 2019 Military World Games held in Wuhan during  October. Again, there is no evidence to suggest that the military contracted or were even exposed to the virus. The CDC confirmed that the first case of COVID-19 in the US was someone who had returned to Washington state from Wuhan on the 15th of January 2020. This is a significant time after the end of the Military Games.


U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in ABC News: US flu season arrives early

CDC: How CDC uses flu forecasting

World Health Organization (WHO): Q&A on coronaviruses (COVID-19)

CDC: First travel-related case of 2019 novel coronavirus detected in United States

Origins of Claim


“CDC data supports the theory of much earlier COVID-19 infection than has been reported in the media. The data shows a dramatic spike in what they call ILI or influenza related illness as early as November of 2019. A number of those states seem to have already experienced a sort of curve on this and made it through to a more stable footing for this time of year as compared to other years. And another interesting thing I bring in here is the military participating in the World Military Games in China, Wuhan China, between October 18th and October 27th 2019. Their chartered flights arrive and depart from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in Washington. Washington is in the group of the earliest states to show a spike in ILI, corresponding with thus, uh, incubation period should the virus have been introduced as the military travelled through Washington to other destinations.”