From China by way of Europe, I should say. People are dunking on this Times story for supposedly obscuring that fact on Beijing’s behalf. “Turns out the milk in the fridge came from Walmart, not a cow,” said a Twitter pal, summarizing the critique. But the Times acknowledges the ultimate origin in the piece: “The deepest branches of the [virus’s genetic] tree all belong to lineages from China.”
Their point in emphasizing that the virus that made its way into NYC was a strain common in Europe isn’t to run interference for China (I hope), it’s to question Trump’s containment strategy. The president has pointed repeatedly to the fact that he banned travel from China on January 31 as proof that he was taking the threat seriously. He didn’t ban travel from Europe until mid-March, though, after cases in Italy had exploded. The NYT is asking what might have happened if he’d shut down travel from Europe a month earlier in recognition of the fact that the virus had already escaped China’s borders. The virus would have arrived in New York eventually one way or another, but maybe late enough that stay-at-home orders could have drastically reduced the spread in March.
How would the media have greeted a European travel ban in mid-February, though? Would Trump have been praised for his better-safe-than-sorry approach at the time, or would he have been savaged for overreacting and risking economic damage by indulging his instincts towards tight borders before a serious threat had emerged in Europe?