Covid-19 Pandemic Timeline: Part 1

January – February

Timeline of Covid-19

  • January 3, 2020 – CDC Director Robert Redfield was notified by a counterpart in China that a “mysterious respiratory illness was spreading in Wuhan, China. He notified HHS Secretary Alex Azar, who shared the report with the National Security Council (NSC)  
  • January 5 – the World Health Organization (WHO) reported a “pneumonia of unknown cause” in Wuhan, China. The WHO advised against travel or trade restrictions at the time
  • January 6 – the CDC Director offered in a letter to Chinese officials to send a team of CDC scientists to assist China. China did not accept the offer for several weeks, which delayed the U.S. access to the virus, important for developing diagnostic tests and a vaccine. China did release genetic data on the new coronavirus on January 9. Also, officials of the HHS convened an intra-agency task force including Redfield (CDC), Azar (HHS), and Anthony S. Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
  • January 7 – Ohio claims to have the first COVID-19 patient
  • January 8 – the CDC issued its first public alert about the coronavirus
  • January 9 – the WHO issued a statement naming the disease as a new coronavirus in Wuhan
  • January 10 – the WHO issued a comprehensive package of guidance to countries on how to test for potential cases. They also warned of the risk of human-to-human transmission
  • January 14 – the WHO held a press briefing stating that their information suggested a possibility of limited, but not sustained, human-to-human transmission. The WHO recommended countries to take precautions due to the human-to-human transmission during earlier SARS and MERS outbreaks. The WHO also tweeted that “preliminary investigations conducted by the Chinese authorities have found no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission of the novel coronavirus. The head of China’s National Health Commission, Ma Xiaowei, confidentially provided a “grim” situation assessment to key Chinese health officials. The related memo said “human-to-human transmission is possible.” An investigation by AP News indicated that the reporting of a case in Thailand prompted the meeting, as well as the risk of spread with heightened travel during the Chinese New Year and various political considerations. However, the Chinese public was not warned until January 20
  • January 20 – both the WHO and Chinese authorities announced the confirmation that human-to-human transmission of the coronavirus had already occurred. The first recorded U.S. case of the new virus was also reported in an American citizen traveling from Wuhan, China, to his home in Washington state. The CDC developed its own coronavirus test (as it typically does) and used it to evaluate the first U.S. case. The CDC test was soon found to be defective, with the third probe giving inconclusive results. The CDC directed state health department labs to send all samples to the CDC lab in Atlanta for evaluation, significantly increasing testing turn-around times. The Chinese Communist Party general secretary Xi Jinping and State Council premier Li Keqiang issued the first public warning about the coronavirus to Chinese citizens. Dr. Fauci announces the National Institutes of Health is already working on the development of a vaccine for the coronavirus
  • January 21 – A man who had returned from Wuhan was hospitalized for the virus in Washington state on January 21, 2020. He was released after two weeks of treatment. A few days later, another case was reported in Chicago, by a woman who had also just returned from Wuhan. A third case was confirmed a day later in Orange County, California.
  • January 22 – Trump received his first public question from a reporter regarding whether he was concerned about the coronavirus. Trump responded: “No, not at all. And we have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China … It’s going to be just fine.”
  • January 23 – Chinese authorities shut down Wuhan, a city of 11 million, which heightened the urgency for the U.S. response team. The Washington Post reported that Secretary Azar (HHS) instructed his team to establish a surveillance mechanism shortly thereafter, but the money and diagnostic tests “would elude U.S. officials for months”. The entire Hubei province, which contains Wuhan, was locked-down January 30
  • January 24 – the U.S. Senate was briefed on the coronavirus by key health officials. U.S. Senators Richard M. BurrKelly LoefflerDianne Feinstein, and James Inhofe allegedly sold stock thereafter, prior to significant declines in the stock market. In Senator Loeffler’s case, the sales began the same day as the briefing. All denied any wrongdoing, citing various reasons. Senator Burr faced calls for his resignation
  • January 26 – Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer calls on Feds to declare coronavirus outbreak a public health emergency
  • January 27 – the WHO assessed the risk of the coronavirus to be “high at the global level”
  • January 29 – the U.S. formally announced a White House Coronavirus Task Force, including senior officials such as acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and others at HHS, CDC, and the U.S. State Department. President Trump attended the meeting on January 29, and tweeted related photos. However, the scope was limited initially to the logistics of keeping travelers out of the U.S. from China, and evacuating U.S. citizens. They did not initially focus on testing or supplies in the U.S. The U.S. government evacuated 195 State Department employees from Wuhan along with their families and other U.S. citizens to March Air Reserve Base near Riverside, California, where they were kept under quarantine for 14 days, although none had been infected. The New York Times reported that President Trump was told “at the time” of a January 29 memo by trade adviser Peter Navarro that the coronavirus could cause as many as half a million deaths and trillions in economic damage. On January 30, HHS Secretary Azar warned President Trump about the “possibility of a pandemic”
  • January 30 – the first case of person-to-person transmission was confirmed in Chicago, between a married couple, after the wife returned from China. The WHO named the coronavirus outbreak that originated in Wuhan, China, a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, warning that “all countries should be prepared for containment, including active surveillance, early detection, isolation and case management, contact tracing and prevention of onward spread”
  • January 31 – another case of a person who returned from Wuhan was confirmed in California, which marked the seventh known case in the U.S. The Trump Administration, through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, declared a public health emergency, and imposed a mandatory 14-day quarantine for any U.S. citizen who has visited Hubei Province in China within the preceding two weeks. It also began denying entry of non-U.S. nationals who had traveled to China within the preceding two weeks. This was the first such travel restriction by the U.S. in more than 50 years
  • February 3 – 49 members of Congress signed a letter to CDC Director Redfield highlighting the urgency of distributing a rapid diagnostic kit that could be processed locally, rather than centrally at the CDC in Atlanta, which they referred to as an “unsustainable bottleneck” as the number of suspected cases rise. Reuters reported that WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said there was no need for measures that “unnecessarily interfere with international travel and trade” to halt the coronavirus. He praised the Chinese response, and referred to the virus’s spread as “minimal and slow”
  • February 5 – the twelfth case is discovered: another college student from Wisconsin. That day, the U.S. evacuates 345 citizens from Hubei Province and takes them to two air bases in California to be quarantined for 14 days. Another government evacuation flight takes place on February 6, containing 300 passengers, most of who are taken to bases in Nebraska and Texas. By this time, more than 500 people are quarantined at three air bases
  • February 6 – the Centers for Disease Control began sending 90 of its own viral detection tests to state-run labs which discovered the tests were inadequate and viral samples had to be shipped to the Atlanta CDC lab instead. Also, the WHO Director-General said: “We have shipped 250,000 tests to more than 70 laboratories around the world, and we’re training lab workers to use them.” Researchers at Stanford and other laboratories had developed tests following the WHO protocol, but “relatively tight” rules at the Food and Drug Administration discouraged them from using them. These rules were not relaxed until early March
  • February 11 – WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a briefing: “[A] virus is more powerful in creating political, economic and social upheaval than any terrorist attack … If the world doesn’t want to wake up and consider this enemy virus as Public Enemy Number 1, I don’t think we will learn our lessons”
  • February 15 – the government evacuates 338 U.S. nationals stranded aboard the cruise ship Diamond Princess, which had been held in quarantine in Yokohama, Japan. Fourteen of those repatriated people are infected with the virus. Five more nationals who were also reported as being infected are evacuated from the ship the following week, and are quarantined at an airbase in California. Six more cases are subsequently confirmed among those who were evacuated from the cruise ship
  • February 20 and 21 – two more cases of people who had returned from China are confirmed in California. The first case of community transmission, because it had no known origin, is confirmed in Solano County, California. A second case of unknown origin is confirmed two days later, also in California, followed by others in Oregon and Washington state
  • February 24 – President Trump tweeted: “The Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA … CDC and WHO have been working hard and very smart.” Speaker Pelosi, when asked if people should stay away from San Francisco’s Chinatown stated: “That’s what we’re trying to do today is to say everything is fine here,” Pelosi said. “Come because precautions have been taken. The city is on top of the situation.”
  • February 25 – HHS Secretary Azar testified before the U.S. Senate. National Geographic summarized his testimony, reporting that “the Strategic National Stockpile has just 30 million surgical masks and 12 million [N95] respirators in reserve.” An additional 300 million of each could be required to protect health workers. HHS said it intended to purchase as many as half a billion respirators and surgical face masks over the next year and a half. National Geographic concluded that the “U.S. has only a fraction of the medical supplies it needs to combat coronavirus”
  • February 26 – President Trump said: “When you have 15 people, and the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down close to zero, that’s a pretty good job we’ve done.” Vice-President Mike Pence was appointed to lead the Coronavirus Task Force, replacing HHS Secretary Azar as the group’s leader. Pence was the first official from within Trump’s White House to coordinate the planning and response, two months after the government became aware of the coronavirus
  • February 28 – the CDC revised its faulty test for COVID-19
  • February 29 – the first death from coronavirus in the U.S. was reported at Evergreen Health Medical Center in Kirkland, Washington, followed by two other confirmed cases in a nursing home in the same city. (Later, it would be reported that the first U.S. death had actually occurred on February 6.) New cases continued to show up in California and Illinois. The Food and Drug Administration began loosening rules that had restricted labs from developing their own coronavirus tests

**The majority of the timeline originated from Wikipedia at the following link:

Published by Catherine Brown

Born in Texas and raised in Alabama. Love learning about history and all the lessons that it can teach us...

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