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Last updated April 2, 2020. 13 minute read

This is a timeline of events since COVID-19's discovery

Self Written by Michael Martin
Reviewed by Dr. Tzvi Doron, DO

What is coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that cause a range of respiratory illnesses. The common cold is sometimes caused by a coronavirus. But so are also more severe conditions, such as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and the novel coronavirus outbreak that is currently in the news.

The new illness, coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), is caused by the virus named severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). The virus originally infected animals and evolved to infect humans. Reports of this virus causing a new illness in humans first surfaced in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China. 

The symptoms of COVID-19 range from mild to severe and can be fatal. But more than 80% of people with COVID-19 recover without complications or special medical treatment.

Timeline

April 2: 6.6 million Americans file for unemployment in a week
This figure is more than double last week’s record-shattering figure of 3.28 million jobless claims from the previous week. With many applicants experiencing trouble filing a claim due to systems being strained, some economists estimate that the true number could be significantly higher. 

April 1: WHO concerned by “rapid escalation” of virus
“The number of deaths has more than doubled in the past week. In the next few days we will reach 1 million confirmed cases, and 50,000 deaths,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesuss told a virtual news conference at the organization’s Geneva headquarters.

April 1: 2,381 Tri-state COVID-19 deaths reported
New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo said that 391 people in New York State had died of the virus since Tuesday, bringing the state total to 1,941 and the total for New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut to 2,381. 

March 31: White House: 100,000 to 240,000 U.S. deaths expected
During a White House press briefing, President Trump says experts predict 100,000 to 240,000 Americans will die from the coronavirus pandemic. Public health officials say the number could be lower if Americans change their behavior and follow social distancing guidelines.

March 30: U.S. deaths pass 3,000
According to Johns Hopkins, the number of coronavirus cases in the United States is more than 163,000, with more than 3,000 deaths. 5,847 people have recovered.

March 30: Another outbreak likely this fall, Fauci says
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious disease expert, predicts another outbreak of coronavirus is likely to hit this fall. “Things will be very, very different,” he says, adding that widespread testing and treatments will be available then. 

March 29: President Trump extends social distancing guidelines
In a White House press briefing, Trump, who had previously said he would like to reopen the country by Easter Sunday (April 12), said social distancing guidelines should stay in place until April 30.

March 28: U.S. deaths pass 2,000
The number of coronavirus cases in the United States passes 121,000, with more than 2,000 deaths and 960 recovered.

March 28: Infant dies of COVID-19
An infant under the age of 1 dies in Illinois after testing positive for coronavirus, the youngest person believed to have died of the disease.

March 28: Trump says he may enact tri-state quarantine

President Trump says he is considering a temporary quarantine on parts of the tri-state area of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, making residents unable to travel outside their borders. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo tells CNN such a plan would be “chaos and mayhem” and “probably illegal.” 

March 27: $2 trillion U.S. stimulus bill signed
President Trump signs a Congress-passed bill worth $2 trillion in coronavirus-related relief. It includes a $1,200 check to most Americans and an expansion of unemployment insurance.

March 26: U.S. has most cases in the world
The New York Times reports that the United States now has more known cases of coronavirus than any other country.

March 26: U.S. unemployment claims set record
More than 3.2 million people filed new unemployment claims in the United States last week, almost four times the previous record set during the recession of 2008.

March 25: Prince Charles has coronavirus
Prince Charles, the heir to the throne of the United Kingdom, has tested positive for novel coronavirus, his office announces. He is experiencing mild symptoms and is self-isolating in Scotland.

March 25: Amazon workers affected
Workers in ten Amazon distribution centers have tested positive for coronavirus, CNN reports.

March 24: U.S. cases top 53,000
As of tonight, the number of coronavirus cases in the U.S. is 53,740, with 780 dead and 348 recovered.

March 24: California child dies of COVID-19

A person under the age of 18 died of coronavirus in Lancaster, California, the apparent first such death of a child in the U.S. The CDC said last week that less than 1% of confirmed coronavirus cases involved people under the age of 19.

March 24: Olympics officially postponed

The International Olympic Committee announces that the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo will be postponed to a date “no later than summer 2021.”

March 23: U.S. cases pass 43,000
As of this evening, there are 43,901 cases of coronavirus in the U.S., Johns Hopkins reports, with 557 deaths.

March 23: Trump wants to loosen restrictions
During a White House press briefing, President Trump says he wants to loosen lockdown measures to protect the U.S. economy. “We can’t let the cure be worse than the problem itself,” he says.

March 23: UK shutdown begins
Prime Minister Boris Johnson announces a three-week lockdown of the UK. All non-essential shops are closed, and people will only be allowed to leave their homes to shop for essentials, seek medical care, and exercise once a day. Gatherings of more than two people are prohibited.

March 23: Virus’s effects expand in Congress
The Senate deadlocked on a stimulus bill for the third day. Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar announced her husband was hospitalized with coronavirus. Utah Sen. Mitt Romney is in self-quarantine after possible contact with Sen. Rand Paul, and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham is quarantining after a possible earlier exposure.

March 22: First senator tests positive
Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky has tested positive for coronavirus, his office says on Twitter, adding that the senator is “asymptomatic” and “was tested out of an abundance of caution due to his extensive travel and events.” On March 18, Paul voted against a stimulus package to provide free testing for COVID-19 and paid sick leave, calling it “wasteful spending.”

March 22: Cases in New York spike
New York reports 15,168 cases of coronavirus in the state, up by 4,812 in one day. That is about 5% of the total number of cases worldwide.

March 22: Olympics may be rescheduled
The International Olympic Committee said it would consider rescheduling the 2020 Olympics, slated to begin July 24 in Tokyo, but that cancellation was not an option being discussed.

March 21: 50% of tests in one NY hospital positive
CNN reports that New York—Presbyterian Hospital performed more than 500 tests for coronavirus today and 50% were positive.

March 21: Italy has record one-day death toll

Italy reports 793 deaths from COVID-19 in one day, nearly a 20% increase from the day before. In the country, 4,825 people have died from coronavirus, and at least 53,578 have contracted it.

March 20: Pence staffer tests positive
A staff member in Vice President Mike Pence’s office has tested positive for coronavirus, Pence’s spokesman said, adding that the staffer had not had close contact with Pence or President Trump.

March 20: More states say stay at home
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker joins New York and California in ordering residents to stay home except to obtain essential services. The governor of Connecticut, Ned Lamont, follows suit and issues a State of Emergency in that state.

March 19: China reports no new local infections
China, the country where the outbreak originated, reported zero new local infections for the previous day. China will have to go for 14 days with zero new local infections for the outbreak to be considered over.

March 19: California issues stay-at-home order
California Gov. Gavin Newsom orders California residents to stay at home, leaving only when necessary. The action, which took effect Thursday night, affects 40 million people. 

March 19: U.S. cases exceed 13,000

NBC News reports that more than 13,330 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in the U.S., with 199 deaths. 

March 19: State Dept. says don’t travel
The U.S. State Department urges Americans not to travel abroad. It tells U.S. citizens currently “in countries where commercial departure options remain available” to “arrange for immediate return to the United States unless they are prepared to remain abroad for an indefinite period.”

March 19: Nearly 40% of those hospitalized aren’t elderly
The New York Times reports CDC data that indicates almost 40% of people hospitalized because of COVID-19 are aged 20 to 54. This contradicts early reports that younger people were unlikely to be seriously affected.

March 18: The U.S. has more than 9,000 cases
The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the United States passes 9,000, according to Johns Hopkins.

March 18: Two congressmen test positive
Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) and Ben McAdams (R-UT) are the first members of Congress to test positive for coronavirus.

March 18: Trump signs relief package
President Trump signs a coronavirus relief package that was passed by Congress. Its provisions include free testing, two-week paid sick leave for full-time employees, $1 billion in food aid, and $1 billion in unemployment assistance to states.

March 17: The U.S. has more than 6,300 cases
According to Johns Hopkins, the number of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. has topped 6,300, with more than 100 deaths. There are more than 1,000 cases in Washington State and more than 800 in New York State.

Italy, the European country hardest hit by the novel coronavirus, reports 345 deaths in the last 24 hours—an increase of 16%. The number of cases in Italy rises to 31,506, a 12.6% spike, but it is the slowest rate of increase since that country’s epidemic began on February 21.

March 17: Cases in China slow
Ten weeks after the COVID-19 outbreak first surfaced in Wuhan, the WHO reports that cases in China are declining. 

March 16: U.S. cases pass 4,500 
The number of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. is more than 4,600, with 82 dead. Worldwide, more than 181,000 cases are confirmed; more than 7,100 people have died.

March 16: Stock market crashes again

The U.S. stock market drops nearly 3,000 points—13%, the worst day for stocks since Black Monday 1987. 

March 16: San Francisco orders residents to shelter in place

Six Bay Area counties order all residents to stay home for the next three weeks, leaving only to obtain “essential services” like food and medical care. This is the strictest lockdown measure yet in the United States, affecting 6.7 million people. The state of California urges all residents over 65 to stay home.

March 16: First vaccine trial begins

The first coronavirus vaccine trial starts in Seattle. But even if the trial is successful, a vaccine won’t be widely available for 12 to 18 months, says Dr. Anthony Fauci of the U.S. National Institutes of Health. 

March 16: New York City shuts schools, bars, restaurants

The New York City public schools, the nation’s largest school system, are closed for at least a month. Nationwide, schools in 35 states have closed. Restaurants and bars are ordered to close; only food takeout and delivery is allowed.

March 15: U.S. cases pass 3,000
The number of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. is more than 3,200, with 62 dead. Worldwide, more than 162,000 cases have been confirmed, and the death toll is more than 6,000.

March 15: Ohio, Illinois, California close venues
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine orders all bars and restaurants in the state closed as of 9 pm Sunday. Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker follows suit, requiring closures as of Monday night through March 30. California Gov. Gavin Newsom announces that bars, nightclubs, breweries, and wineries in that state must close.

March 14: European travel ban extended

The Trump administration extends its ban on travel from European countries to the United Kingdom.

March 14: White House releases Trump test results

The White House says President Trump was tested for coronavirus, and the results were negative.

March 13: Number of U.S. cases tops 2,100
The number of reported COVID-19 cases stands at more than 2,100 in the United States, according to Johns Hopkins University. Worldwide, more than 137,000 cases have been confirmed, with more than 5,000 deaths.

March 13: CDC projects up to 214 million Americans infected
According to documents obtained by the New York Times, the CDC estimated that between 160 million and 214 million people in the U.S. could be infected over the course of the coronavirus epidemic—which could last for months to a year—and as many as 200,000 to 1.7 million people could die. The agency’s calculations found that 2.4 million to 21 million people could seek hospitalization, which would overtax the country’s 925,000 hospital beds. The CDC stipulated that behavioral changes like social distancing could lower that number.

March 13: Trump declares a national emergency
In an address from the White House rose garden, President Trump declares the coronavirus pandemic to be a national emergency. He says, “I don’t take responsibility” for consistently delayed testing by the CDC.

March 12: Canada’s First Lady tests positive
Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, the wife of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, has tested positive for coronavirus, the Associated Press reports. “Although I’m experiencing uncomfortable symptoms of the virus, I will be back on my feet soon,” says Grégoire Trudeau in a statement.

March 12: Ohio estimates 100,000 infected
Ohio Department of Health Director Amy Acton says that based on community spread, 1% of Ohio’s population is likely infected with COVID-19—about 100,000 people. The state has only five confirmed positive cases. Acton says the slow rollout of COVID-19 tests from the federal government is precluding a more accurate measurement of spread.

March 12: More pro sports suspensions
The National Hockey League suspends its season. Major League Baseball announces that spring training is suspended, and the season-opening will be delayed for at least two weeks.

March 12: Major cultural institutions close

The Met Museum, Metropolitan Opera, Lincoln Center, and Carnegie Hall in New York City announce they will close temporarily. Broadway shows are suspended until April 13. Disneyland and Disney World close through the end of the month. Performances by the Los Angeles Philharmonic and at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. are canceled.

March 12: Trump’s address followed by stock market plunge

Following President Trump’s Oval Office address, the stock market drops 10%, the biggest one-day decline since Black Monday in 1987.

March 11: NBA suspends season
The National Basketball Association announces it will suspend its season after a player for the Utah Jazz tested positive for coronavirus, the New York Times reports.

March 11: Tom Hanks tests positive

Actor Tom Hanks says that he and his wife, Rita Wilson, have tested positive for coronavirus. The couple is in Australia, where Hanks is co-starring in a film about Elvis Presley. Warner Bros. says a crew member on the production was diagnosed with coronavirus.

March 11: Trump announces European travel shutdown
In an Oval Office address, President Trump announces a 30-day ban on certain travel from parts of Europe. The United Kingdom is exempt.

March 11: Prediction on the potential number of U.S. infected
Dr. Brian Monahan, the attending physician of Congress, predicts that 70 million to 150 million people in the U.S. will become infected with COVID-19, NBC News reports.

March 11: Italy lockdown expanded further

The Italian government orders the shutdown of all stores except supermarkets and pharmacies.

March 11: WHO designates pandemic
The World Health Organization announces that the spread of COVID-19 is officially a pandemic. A pandemic is a disease that is spreading worldwide.

March 10: Containment area ordered in upstate New York
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo orders a one-mile “containment area” in New Rochelle; schools are to be closed for two weeks, and large public gatherings canceled. The area surrounds a synagogue that is an epicenter of the state’s outbreak.

March 10: Coachella to be postponed
CNN reports that one of the world’s largest music events, originally scheduled for April in Indio, California, will be delayed until October.

March 9: Surgeon General says mostly elderly are seriously affected
During a White House press briefing, Surgeon General Jerome Adams says the people most likely to be hospitalized for coronavirus are older than 60, and the average age of death from coronavirus is 80. “There is something about being young that is protective,” he says. “We want people to be reassured by that.” He urges younger people to take precautions, including hand washing and covering sneezes and coughs, to avoid transmitting the virus to older people.

March 9: Italy expands lockdown
Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte locks down travel throughout the entire country, affecting 16 million people. Public events are canceled. “Only journeys for urgent, verified professional reasons, or for emergency situations, or for health reasons, will be permitted,” Euronews reports. Shopping and going to bars and restaurants are still allowed, as long as customers observe a one-meter distance between themselves and others.

March 9: Lawmakers in self-quarantine
Five members of Congress have quarantined themselves after having contact with a person diagnosed with COVID-19, including Reps. Doug Collins and Matt Gaetz.

March 9: CDC says virus could spread into 2021
A CDC official tells reporters that coronavirus could spread into next year but that most people are not expected to have severe cases.

March 9: Scientists talk infectiousness
German scientists say that people infected with coronavirus emit high levels of the virus early in their infection, but people with mild cases are likely not contagious after 10 days.

March 9: Testing available in all 50 states, CDC says
The CDC says coronavirus test kits are available in all 50 states, in 78 state and local public health labs.

March 9: Cuomo says stay home if you can
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo urges New Yorkers to work from home if possible and announces the launch of New York State branded hand sanitizer to address shortages and price gouging. He notes the sanitizer contains 75% alcohol, compared to Purell’s 70%, and “has a nice floral bouquet.”

March 8: Americans urged to skip cruises
The State Department advises that U.S. citizens, especially those with medical conditions, should avoid cruise ships.

March 8: U.S. cases top 500
The New York Times reports there are 533 cases of coronavirus in 33 states, with at least 21 deaths. 

March 8: Italy on lockdown
Italy locks down the entire Lombardy area (including Milan and Venice), limiting the movement of about one-quarter of the country’s citizens. The number of cases reported in Italy is second only to China. 

March 7: Cases reported in Pennsylvania
The governor of Pennsylvania announces that two presumptive cases of coronavirus have been reported in the state, bringing the total to four (two others were reported on March 6).

March 7: New York declares state of emergency
Gov. Andrew Cuomo declares a state of emergency and says the number of cases in the state has risen to 89; 70 of those cases are in Westchester County.

March 6: SXSW canceled
The 34th annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, is canceled because of coronavirus fears.

March 6: The U.S. coronavirus death toll stands at 14, with 250 cases reported nationwide
The number of global cases passes 100,000 with more than 3,400 deaths.

March 6: Pennsylvania reports its first two cases.

March 5: Congress approves $8.5 billion in emergency funding to address coronavirus
It includes $2 billion to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for prevention and response and more than $3 billion to develop vaccines, testing, and treatments. 

March 5: California declares state of emergency
California Gov. Gavin Newsom declares a state of emergency after a California man died of coronavirus aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship, which returned from a trip to Mexico last month. Health officials are looking for passengers to test them for the virus. 50 cases of coronavirus have been reported in 12 counties in the state.

March 5: Number of cases in New York rise to 22
Gov. Andrew Cuomo reports 11 more positive tests since the day before: 8 people in Westchester County, with mild or no symptoms; two people in New York City, both hospitalized; and a 42-year-old man hospitalized in Nassau County. 

March 5: School district temporarily shuts down
Citing concerns over coronavirus, Northshore School District in Washington State announces it will close schools for up to 14 days and offer cloud-based online classes.

March 4: Some companies urge working from home
Amazon, Google, Facebook, and Microsoft tell employees at their Seattle campuses to work from home if possible. One Facebook employee tested positive for the virus and was last in their Seattle office on Feb. 21.

March 3: Death toll rises in Italy
Italy announced the death toll in the country had reached 77.

March 3: New Jersey reports its first presumptive case
The patient is a man in his 30s who lives in Fort Lee and had some contact with one of the COVID-19 cases in New York.

March 2: COVID-19 at likely pandemic proportions
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, tells NBC News that coronavirus has “now reached outbreak proportions and likely pandemic proportions.” 

But Fauci also says the mortality rate may decline as more cases are discovered: “I think 2.5% is probably a bit high…It’s dangerous to make firm kinds of predictions. I think it likely will be down around 1 percent, but I’m not sure.”

There are at least 91 cases of coronavirus in the United States. The death toll in Washington State rises to six. Six people who were on the Diamond Princess have died, most of them elderly.

March 1: WHO says most cases are mild
In an update on coronavirus, the World Health Organization says the most common symptoms are fever, shortness of breath, and dry cough, and that most people who are infected don’t become seriously ill. “Most patients (80%) experienced mild illness,” the WHO said. “Approximately 14% experienced severe disease & 5% were critically ill.”

March 1: First case reported in New York City
A 39-year-old healthcare worker who was traveling in Iran tested positive for coronavirus upon returning home to Manhattan. Officials say she had not taken public transportation and was treating herself at home. 

March 1: Scientists detail virus spread in the U.S.
Coronavirus may have been spreading in Washington State for six weeks, health officials say.

March 1: First case reported in Rhode Island
Health officials say that a person in their 40s, who had traveled to Italy in mid-February, had been diagnosed with coronavirus.

February 29: First U.S. death
The first U.S. death due to coronavirus is a man in his 50s who had underlying health conditions. He was a patient at Evergreen Health in Kirkland, Washington. 

February 14: First death in Europe reported in France
An 80-year-old Chinese tourist dies of coronavirus in a Paris hospital. He had arrived in Paris in mid-January and was hospitalized with quickly worsening symptoms.

February 10: Death toll surpasses SARS
In China, the death toll surpasses the 2002 SARS epidemic, with 811 deaths and 37,198 infections.

February 7: Chinese doctor/whistleblower dies
Li Wenliang, a doctor who was among the first to sound the alarm over coronavirus and was reprimanded by Chinese officials, dies of the illness.

February 5: Diamond Princess cruise ship quarantined
More than 3,600 passengers on the Diamond Princess cruise ship are quarantined in Yokohama, Japan, after a two-week trip to Southeast Asia. Officials begin testing them for the virus. By February 13, 218 had tested positive. 

February 2: First death outside of China reported
A Chinese man from Wuhan dies in the Philippines, the first death outside mainland China.

January 30: WHO declares emergency
The World Health Organization declares that coronavirus is a global health emergency. The death toll in China reaches 170, with 7,711 cases reported in the country.

January 20: First U.S. case reported
The first confirmed case in the U.S. is a man in his 30s from Washington State. He had recently visited Wuhan. 

China reports a third death and more than 200 infections.

January 20: First cases outside China reported
The World Health Organization reports the first cases of coronavirus outside mainland China, in Japan, South Korea, and Thailand.

January 11: First death in China reported
Chinese officials report the first death from the virus, a 61-year-old man who had visited the seafood market. His symptoms did not respond to treatment, and he died of heart failure on January 9. 

January 7, 2020: Virus identified
Officials announce that they’ve identified a novel virus as the cause of the outbreak. It is named 2019-nCoV and was identified as belonging to the coronavirus family, which includes SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome),  MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome), and the common cold. 

December 31, 2019: Outbreak originates
China alerts the World Health Organization (WHO) to a number of unusual cases of pneumonia in Wuhan. Several can be traced to workers at the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, which is closed on January 1.