American black novelist Jesmyn Ward has an important piece in Vanity Fair, Sept. 1, 2020, “On Witness and Respair: A Personal Tragedy Followed by a Pandemic”, link.
The writer has authored several books, the most recent a novel “Sing, Unburied, Sing” (2017, Scribner).
She teaches at Tulane in New Orleans and lives on the Mississippi Gulf Coast near Bay St Louis, which I visited in Feb. 2006.
Her husband, whom she says functioned as a house-husband, died Jan. 9, 2020, and the circumstances in the article make it sound like he died of COVID-19.
The family got sick right after New Years (well before the maligned Mardi Gras parties that made the news).
Her piece in the periodical is quite passionate.
But if a male only 33 died of COVID this soon in the US and indeed acquired it in the community in the US (Mississippi or maybe New Orleans), that shows that the virus was already here before the end of 2019.
It should not be surprising. What may have happened is that incidences of transmission (contact with people who had flown in for China or maybe Europe) simply dead-ended, but there could have been some of them.
It seems like the exponential spread, with hospitalizations and deaths (first in nursing homes but then everywhere) took off after a few superspreader events, first on the West Coast (especially near Seattle) and then in the East (near NYC) and possibly the South.
International air travel would have had to be almost completely shut off by Jan. 1 (with quarantines) to prevent the pandemic in the US.