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Belleville NJ mayor believes he had COVID-19 in November: US media

(People's Daily Online)    14:03, May 06, 2020

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The mayor of Belleville, New Jersey, Michael Melham has tested positive for coronavirus antibodies, and believes he contracted COVID-19 in November — more than two months before the U.S. first reported cases of the new disease in Washington State, US media reported on April 30.

Melham said he was sick toward the end of November after he left the League of Municipalities Conference in Atlantic City on Nov.21. He thought he would feel better after a good night’s sleep, but in the following days, he suffered from chills, hallucinations and a “skyrocketing temperature” of 102 degrees, according to and

He said that it was the sickest he had ever been in his adult life. “It felt as if I was an addict going through withdrawal. I didn’t know what was happening to me,” Melham said in a press release. The doctor told Melham he had the flu and he’d recover with a few days of rest, the release said. He did not take a flu test.

Despite eventually getting better, this unusual experience stayed in his mind until COVID-19 began to break out in large numbers across New Jersey.

Melham said he later suspected he had contracted the coronavirus in November but dismissed the notion because the earliest cases in the United States weren’t reported until January. New Jersey’s first positive coronavirus case was not reported until March 4.

“I had always been suspicious that I had been potentially positive for coronavirus in November,” Melham said. “But I dismissed it because I kept hearing the first cases were in January 2020.”

He suspected he could potentially be an early, undetected case of the coronavirus, and the suspicion prompted him to go for a blood test. He got the results on April 29 and announced on April 30 that he tested positive for antibodies related to the virus that causes COVID-19, indicating that he has had an infection in the past and has developed antibodies to the disease.

Health experts now say the coronavirus may have been quietly circulating in the United States in January and February, when testing was rare. None have pushed the timeline back as far as November.

“We all hear about how COVID-19 didn’t really exist here in the U.S. until January,” Melham said. “That is obviously not the case. I am living, breathing proof that we were all dealing with it months earlier.”

He said the antibodies that he had were “the longer-term ones, not the most recent ones”. He has done no traveling in recent months, other than a late-January trip to Puerto Rico. He lives alone.

Melham said that some people have told him they were also gravely sick in November and December. “My fear is that there are many who dismissed a potentially positive coronavirus diagnosis as a bad flu,” Melham said.

The state health department and spokesperson for Governor Phil Murphy declined to comment on the mayor’s statements. 

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Xian Jiangnan, Bianji)

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