BACKGROUND: The Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, caused by Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), evolved rapidly in the United States . This report describes the demographic, clinical, and epidemiologic characteristics of 544 U.S. persons under investigation (PUI) for COVID-19 with complete SARS-CoV-2 testing in the beginning stages of the pandemic from January 17 through February 29 , 2020 .
METHODS: In this surveillance cohort, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provided consultation to public health and healthcare professionals to identify PUI for SARS-CoV-2 testing by quantitative real-time reverse-transcription PCR . Demographic, clinical, and epidemiologic characteristics of PUI were reported by public health and healthcare professionals during consultation with on-call CDC clinicians and subsequent submission of a CDC PUI Report Form . Characteristics of laboratory-negative and laboratory-positive persons were summarized as proportions for the period of January 17-February 29, and characteristics of all PUI were compared before and after February 12 using prevalence ratios .
RESULTS: A total of 36 PUI tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 and were classified as confirmed cases . Confirmed cases and PUI testing negative for SARS-CoV-2 had similar demographic, clinical, and epidemiologic characteristics . Consistent with changes in PUI evaluation criteria , 88% (13/15) of confirmed cases detected before February 12 , 2020, reported travel from China . After February 12 , 57% (12/21) of confirmed cases reported no known travel- or contact-related exposures .
CONCLUSIONS: These findings can inform preparedness for future pandemics, including capacity for rapid expansion of novel diagnostic tests to accommodate broad surveillance strategies to assess community transmission, including potential contributions from asymptomatic and presymptomatic infections.