Here’s a look at the coronavirus outbreak, declared a worldwide pandemic by the World Health Organization. The coronavirus, called Covid-19 by WHO, originated in China and is the cousin of the SARS virus.
Coronaviruses are a large group of viruses that are common among animals. The viruses can make people sick, usually with a mild to moderate upper respiratory tract illness, similar to a common cold. Coronavirus symptoms include a runny nose, cough, sore throat, possibly a headache and maybe a fever, which can last for a couple of days.
December 31, 2019 – Cases of pneumonia detected in Wuhan, China, are first reported to WHO. During this reported period, the virus is unknown. The cases occur between December 12 and December 29, according to Wuhan Municipal Health.
January 1, 2020 – Chinese health authorities close the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market after it is discovered that wild animals sold there may be the source of the virus.
January 5, 2020 – China announces that the unknown pneumonia cases in Wuhan are not SARS or MERS. In a statement, the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission says a retrospective probe into the outbreak has been initiated.
January 7, 2020 – Chinese authorities confirm that they have identified the virus as a novel coronavirus, initially named 2019-nCoV by WHO.
January 11, 2020 – The Wuhan Municipal Health Commission announces the first death caused by the coronavirus. A 61-year-old man, exposed to the virus at the seafood market, died on January 9 after respiratory failure caused by severe pneumonia.
January 17, 2020 – Chinese health officials confirm that a second person has died in China. The United States responds to the outbreak by implementing screenings for symptoms at airports in San Francisco, New York and Los Angeles.
January 20, 2020 – China reports 139 new cases of the sickness, including a third death. On the same day, WHO’s first situation report confirms cases in Japan, South Korea and Thailand.
January 20, 2020 – The National Institutes of Health announces that it is working on a vaccine against the coronavirus. “The NIH is in the process of taking the first steps towards the development of a vaccine,” says Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
January 21, 2020 – Officials in Washington state confirm the first case on US soil.
January 23, 2020 – At an emergency committee, WHO says that the coronavirus does not yet constitute a public health emergency of international concern.
January 23, 2020 – The Beijing Culture and Tourism Bureau cancels all large-scale Lunar New Year celebrations in an effort to contain the growing spread of coronavirus. On the same day, Chinese authorities enforce a partial lockdown of transport in and out of Wuhan. Authorities in the nearby cities of Huanggang and Ezhou Huanggang announce a series of similar measures.
January 28, 2020 – Chinese President Xi Jinping meets with WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom in Beijing. At the meeting, Xi and WHO agree to send a team of international experts, including US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention staff, to China to investigate the coronavirus outbreak.
January 29, 2020 – The White House announces the formation of a new task force that will help monitor and contain the spread of the virus, and ensure Americans have accurate and up-to-date health and travel information, it says.
January 30, 2020 – The United States reports its first confirmed case of person-to-person transmission of the coronavirus. On the same day, WHO determines that the outbreak constitutes a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC).
February 2, 2020 – A man in the Philippines dies from the coronavirus – the first time a death has been reported outside mainland China since the outbreak began.
February 4, 2020 – The Japanese Health Ministry announces that ten people aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship moored in Yokohama Bay are confirmed to have the coronavirus. The ship, which is carrying more than 3,700 people, is placed under quarantine scheduled to end on February 19.
February 6, 2020 – First Covid-19 death in the United States: A person in California’s Santa Clara County dies of coronavirus, but the link is not confirmed until April 21.
February 7, 2020 – Li Wenliang, a Wuhan doctor who was targeted by police for trying to sound the alarm on a “SARS-like” virus in December, dies of the coronavirus. Following news of Li’s death, the topics “Wuhan government owes Dr. Li Wenliang an apology,” and “We want freedom of speech,” trend on China’s Twitter-like platform, Weibo, before disappearing from the heavily censored platform.
February 8, 2020 – The US Embassy in Beijing confirms that a 60-year-old US national died in Wuhan on February 6, marking the first confirmed death of a foreigner.
February 10, 2020 – Xi inspects efforts to contain the coronavirus in Beijing, the first time he has appeared on the front lines of the fight against the outbreak. On the same day, a team of international experts from WHO arrive in China to assist with containing the coronavirus outbreak.
February 10, 2020 – The Anthem of the Seas, a Royal Caribbean cruise ship, sets sail from Bayonne, New Jersey, after a coronavirus scare had kept it docked and its passengers waiting for days.
February 11, 2020 – WHO names the coronavirus Covid-19.
February 13, 2020 – China’s state-run Xinhua News Agency announces that Shanghai mayor Ying Yong will be replacing Jiang Chaoliang amid the outbreak. Wuhan Communist Party chief Ma Guoqiang has also been replaced by Wang Zhonglin, party chief of Jinan city in Shandong province, according to Xinhua.
February 14, 2020 – A Chinese tourist who tested positive for the virus dies in France, becoming the first person to die in the outbreak in Europe. On the same day, Egypt announces its first case of coronavirus, marking the first case in Africa.
February 15, 2020 – The official Communist Party journal Qiushi publishes the transcript of a speech made on February 3 by Xi in which he “issued requirements for the prevention and control of the new coronavirus” on January 7, revealing Xi knew about and was directing the response to the virus on almost two weeks before he commented on it publicly.
February 17, 2020 – A second person in California’s Santa Clara County dies of coronavirus, but the link is not confirmed until April 21.
February 18, 2020 – Xi says in a phone call with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson that China’s measures to prevent and control the epidemic “are achieving visible progress,” according to state news Xinhua.
February 21, 2020 – The CDC changes criteria for counting confirmed cases of novel coronavirus in the United States and begins tracking two separate and distinct groups: those repatriated by the US Department of State and those identified by the US public health network.
February 25, 2020 – The NIH announces that a clinical trial to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of the antiviral drug remdesivir in adults diagnosed with coronavirus has started at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha. The first participant is an American who was evacuated from the Diamond Princess cruise ship docked in Japan.
February 25, 2020 – In an effort to contain the largest outbreak in Europe, Italy’s Lombardy region press office issues a list of towns and villages that are in complete lockdown. Around 100,000 people are affected by the travel restrictions.
February 26, 2020 – CDC officials say that a California patient being treated for novel coronavirus is the first US case of unknown origin. The patient, who didn’t have any relevant travel history nor exposure to another known patient, is the first possible US case of “community spread.”
February 29, 2020 – A patient dies of coronavirus in Washington state. For almost two months, this is considered the first death due to the virus in the United States, until autopsy results announced April 21 reveal two earlier deaths in California.
March 3, 2020 – The Federal Reserve slashes interest rates by half a percentage point in an attempt to give the US economy a jolt in the face of concerns about the coronavirus outbreak. It is the first unscheduled, emergency rate cut since 2008, and it also marks the biggest one-time cut since then.
March 3, 2020 – Officials announce that Iran will temporarily release 54,000 people from prisons and deploy hundreds of thousands of health workers as officials announced a slew of measures to contain the world’s deadliest coronavirus outbreak outside China. It is also announced that 23 members of Iran’s parliament tested positive for the virus.
March 4, 2020 – The CDC formally removes earlier restrictions that limited coronavirus testing of the general public to people in the hospital, unless they had close contact with confirmed coronavirus cases. According to the CDC, clinicians should now “use their judgment to determine if a patient has signs and symptoms compatible with COVID-19 and whether the patient should be tested.”
March 8, 2020 – Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte signs a decree placing travel restrictions on the entire Lombardy region and 14 other provinces, restricting the movements of more than 10 million people in the northern part of the country.
March 9, 2020 – Conte announces that the whole country of Italy is on lockdown.
March 11, 2020 – WHO declares the novel coronavirus outbreak to be a pandemic. WHO says the outbreak is the first pandemic caused by a coronavirus. In an Oval Office address, Trump announces that he is restricting travel from Europe to the United States for 30 days in an attempt to slow the spread of coronavirus. The ban, which applies to the 26 countries in the Schengen Area, applies only to foreign nationals and not American citizens and permanent residents who’d be screened before entering the country.
March 18, 2020 – Trump signs into law a coronavirus relief package that includes provisions for free testing for Covid-19 and paid emergency leave.
March 19, 2020 – At a news conference, officials from China’s National Health Commission report no new locally transmitted coronavirus cases for the first time since the pandemic began.
March 25, 2020 – The White House and Senate leaders reach an agreement on a $2 trillion stimulus deal to offset the economic damage of coronavirus, producing one of the most expensive and far-reaching measures in the history of Congress.
March 27, 2020 – Trump signs the stimulus package into law.
April 2, 2020 – According to the Department of Labor, 6.6 million US workers file for their first week of unemployment benefits in the week ending March 28, the highest number of initial claims in history. Globally, the total number of coronavirus cases surpasses 1 million, according to Johns Hopkins University’s tally.
April 3, 2020 – Trump says his administration is now recommending Americans wear “non-medical cloth” face coverings, a reversal of previous guidance that suggested masks were unnecessary for people who weren’t sick.
April 8, 2020 – China reopens Wuhan after a 76-day lockdown.
April 14, 2020 – Trump announces he is halting funding to WHO while a review is conducted, saying the review will cover WHO’s “role in severely mismanaging and covering up the spread of coronavirus.”
April 20, 2020 – Chilean health officials announce that Chile will begin issuing the world’s first digital immunity cards to people who have recovered from coronavirus, saying the cards will help identify individuals who no longer pose a health risk to others.
April 21, 2020 – California’s Santa Clara County announces autopsy results that show two Californians died of novel coronavirus in early and mid-February – up to three weeks before the previously known first US death from the virus.
April 28, 2020 – The United States passes one million confirmed cases of the virus, according to Johns Hopkins.
May 1, 2020 – The US Food and Drug Administration issues an emergency-use authorization for remdesivir in hospitalized patients with severe Covid-19. FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn says remdesivir is the first authorized therapy drug for Covid-19.
May 4, 2020 – During a virtual pledging conference co-hosted by the European Union, world leaders pledge a total of $8 billion for the development and deployment of diagnostics, treatments and vaccines against the novel coronavirus.
May 11, 2020 – Trump and his administration announce that the federal government is sending $11 billion to states to expand coronavirus testing capabilities. The relief package signed on April 24 includes $25 billion for testing, with $11 billion for states, localities, territories and tribes.
May 13, 2020 – Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of WHO’s health emergencies program, warns that the coronavirus may never go away and may just join the mix of viruses that kill people around the world every year.
May 19, 2020 – WHO agrees to hold an inquiry into the global response to the coronavirus pandemic. WHO member states adopt the proposal with no objections during the World Health Assembly meeting, after the European Union and Australia led calls for an investigation.
May 23, 2020 – China reports no new symptomatic coronavirus cases, the first time since the beginning of the outbreak in December.
May 27, 2020 – Data collected by Johns Hopkins University reports that the coronavirus has killed more than 100,000 people across the US, meaning that an average of almost 900 Americans died each day since the first known coronavirus-related death was reported nearly four months earlier.
June 2, 2020 – Wuhan’s Health Commission announces that it has completed coronavirus tests on 9.9 million of its residents with no new confirmed cases found.
June 11, 2020 – The United States passes 2 million confirmed cases of the virus, according to Johns Hopkins.
June 16, 2020 – University of Oxford scientists leading the Recovery Trial, a large UK-based trial investigating potential Covid-19 treatments, announce that a low-dose regimen of dexamethasone for 10 days was found to reduce the risk of death by a third among hospitalized patients requiring ventilation in the trial.
June 20, 2020 – The NIH announces that it has halted a clinical trial evaluating the safety and effectiveness of drug hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for the coronavirus. “A data and safety monitoring board met late Friday and determined that while there was no harm, the study drug was very unlikely to be beneficial to hospitalized patients with Covid-19,” the NIH says in a statement.
June 26, 2020 – During a virtual media briefing, WHO announces that it plans to deliver about 2 billion doses of a coronavirus vaccine to people across the globe. One billion of those doses will be purchased for low- and middle-income countries, according to WHO.
July 1, 2020 – The European Union announces it will allow travelers from 14 countries outside the bloc to visit EU countries, months after it shut its external borders in response to the pandemic. The list does not include the US, which doesn’t meet the criteria set by the EU for it to be considered a “safe country.”
July 6, 2020 – In an open letter published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, 239 scientists from around the world urge WHO and other health agencies to be more forthright in explaining the potential airborne transmission of coronavirus. In the letter, scientists write that studies “have demonstrated beyond any reasonable doubt that viruses are released during exhalation, talking, and coughing in microdroplets small enough to remain aloft in air and pose a risk of exposure at distances beyond 1 to 2 meters (yards) from an infected individual.”
July 7, 2020 – The Trump administration notifies Congress and the United Nations that the United States is formally withdrawing from WHO. The withdrawal goes into effect on July 6, 2021.
July 21, 2020 – European leaders agree to create a €750 billion ($858 billion) recovery fund to rebuild EU economies ravaged by the coronavirus.
July 27, 2020 – A vaccine being developed by the Vaccine Research Center at the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, in partnership with the biotechnology company Moderna, enters Phase 3 testing. The trial is expected to enroll about 30,000 adult volunteers and evaluates the safety of the vaccine and whether it can prevent symptomatic Covid-19 after two doses, among other outcomes.
August 11, 2020 – In a live teleconference, Russian President Vladimir Putin announces that Russia has approved a coronavirus vaccine for public use before completion of Phase 3 trials, which usually precedes approval. The vaccine, which is named Sputnik-V, is developed by the Moscow-based Gamaleya Institute with funding from the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF).
August 15, 2020 – Russia begins production on Sputnik-V, according to Russian state news agency TASS.
August 23, 2020 – The FDA issues an emergency use authorization for the use of convalescent plasma to treat Covid-19. It is made using the blood of people who have recovered from coronavirus infections.
August 27, 2020 – The CDC notifies public health officials around the United States to prepare to distribute a potential coronavirus vaccine as soon as late October. In the documents, posted by The New York Times, the CDC provides planning scenarios to help states prepare and advises on who should get vaccinated first – healthcare professionals, essential workers, national security “populations” and long-term care facility residents and staff.
September 4, 2020 – The first peer-reviewed results of Phase 1 and Phase 2 clinical trials of Russia’s Covid-19 vaccine are published in the medical journal The Lancet. The results “have a good safety profile” and the vaccine induced antibody responses in all participants, The Lancet says.
October 2, 2020 – Trump announces that he and first lady Melania Trump have tested positive for Covid-19. He spends three nights at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center receiving treatment before returning to the White House.
October 12, 2020 – Drugmaker Johnson & Johnson announces it has paused the advanced clinical trial of its experimental coronavirus vaccine because of an unexplained illness in one of the volunteers.”Following our guidelines, the participant’s illness is being reviewed and evaluated by the ENSEMBLE independent Data Safety Monitoring Board (DSMB) as well as our internal clinical and safety physicians,” the company said in a statement. ENSEMBLE is the name of the study. The trial resumes later in the month.
December 10, 2020 – Vaccine advisers to the FDA vote to recommend the agency grant emergency use authorization to Pfizer and BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine.
December 14, 2020 – US officials announce the first doses of the FDA authorized Pfizer vaccine have been delivered to all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.
December 18, 2020 – The FDA authorizes a second coronavirus vaccine made by Moderna for emergency use. “The emergency use authorization allows the vaccine to be distributed in the U.S. for use in individuals 18 years and older,” the FDA said in a tweet.
January 14, 2021 – The WHO team tasked with investigating the origins of the outbreak in Wuhan arrive in China.
February 22, 2021 – The death toll from Covid-19 exceeds 500,000 in the United States.
February 27, 2021 – The FDA grants emergency use authorization to Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccine, the first single dose Covid-19 vaccine available in the US.
March 30, 2021 – According to a 120-page report from WHO, the novel coronavirus that causes Covid-19 probably spread to people through an animal, and probably started spreading among humans no more than a month or two before it was noticed in December of 2019. The report says a scenario where it spread via an intermediate animal host, possibly a wild animal captured and then raised on a farm, is “very likely.”
April 17, 2021 – The global tally of deaths from Covid-19 surpasses 3 million, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins.
August 3, 2021 – According to figures published by the CDC, the more contagious Delta variant accounts for an estimated 93.4% of coronavirus circulating in the United States during the last two weeks of July. The figures show a rapid increase over the past two months, up from around 3% in the two weeks ending May 22.
August 12, 2021 – The FDA authorizes an additional Covid-19 vaccine dose for certain immunocompromised people.
August 23, 2021 – The FDA grants full approval to the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine for people age 16 and older, making it the first coronavirus vaccine approved by the FDA.
September 24, 2021 – CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky diverges from the agency’s independent vaccine advisers to recommend boosters for a broader group of people – those ages 18 to 64 who are at increased risk of Covid-19 because of their workplaces or institutional settings – in addition to older adults, long-term care facility residents and some people with underlying health conditions.
November 2, 2021 – Walensky says she is endorsing a recommendation to vaccinate children ages 5-11 against Covid-19, clearing the way for immediate vaccination of the youngest age group yet in the US.
December 16, 2021 – The CDC changes its recommendations for Covid-19 vaccines to make clear that shots made by Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech are preferred over Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine.
December 22, 2021 – The FDA authorizes Pfizer’s antiviral pill, Paxlovid, to treat Covid-19, the first antiviral Covid-19 pill authorized in the United States for ill people to take at home, before they get sick enough to be hospitalized. The following day, the FDA authorizes Merck’s antiviral pill, molnupiravir.
December 27, 2021 – The CDC shortens the recommended times that people should isolate when they’ve tested positive for Covid-19 from 10 days to five days if they don’t have symptoms – and if they wear a mask around others for at least five more days. The CDC also shortens the recommended time for people to quarantine if they are exposed to the virus to a similar five days if they are vaccinated.
January 31, 2022 – The FDA grants full approval to Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine for those ages 18 and older. This is the second coronavirus vaccine given full approval by the FDA.
March 29, 2022 – The FDA authorizes a second booster of the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna Covid-19 vaccines for adults 50 and older. That same day, the CDC also endorses a second booster for the same age group.
April 25, 2022 – The FDA expands approval of the drug remdesivir to treat patients as young as 28 days and weighing about seven pounds.
May 17, 2022 – The FDA authorizes a booster dose of Pfizer/BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine for children ages 5 to 11 at least five months after completion of the primary vaccine series. On May 19, the CDC also endorses a booster dose for the same age group.
June 18, 2022 – The CDC recommends Covid-19 vaccines for children as young as 6 months.
August 31, 2022 – The FDA authorizes updated Covid-19 vaccine booster shots from Moderna and Pfizer. Both are bivalent vaccines that combine the companies’ original vaccine with one that targets the BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron sublineages. The CDC signs off on the updated booster shots the following day.
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