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January auto show could have hastened Coronavirus arrival in Detroit

Flickr User Audi AG

Moving the Detroit Auto Show to the summer this year might have helped the city avoid an earlier, and worse, Coronavirus outbreak.

The North American International Auto Show traditionally had come to Detroit in January, but last year, organizers decided to move the 2020 show to June. That means tens of thousands of global auto company officials, journalists and attendees were not squeezed into the TCF Center together this winter.

MSU infectious disease specialist Dr. Peter Gulick said no one would have been prepared for an outbreak in January. He said, “just one case could have been enough to spark the whole process.”

“Had those cases come in that kind of an environment," Dr. Gulick added, "that could have spread very, very quickly locally within the city of Detroit, nationally because of people coming from all over the country, and then internationally.”

Dr. Gulick speculated that Detroit might have been hit especially hard, and visitors exposed to the virus in the Motor City would have carried it back to their home states and countries.

The show which was slated for June has already been canceled. Instead, the TCF center is being converted into a field hospital to treat non-critical COVID-19 patients.