From Wuhan to the White House: A timeline of COVID-19’s spread
COVID-19 has spread quickly around the world, causing over 1.3 million deaths and infecting more than 54 million people as of Nov. 16, 2020, according to Johns Hopkins' Coronavirus Resource Center. It’s already hard to remember life before COVID-19—but it was less than a year ago when a doctor in China sounded the alarm about a new respiratory virus. Since then, cases have been confirmed in nearly every country and on every continent except Antarctica. The United States today has the most COVID-19 cases in the world, and cases are rising quickly as the winter holidays approach.
The story of how COVID-19 spread so far and so fast is a story of government secrecy, delayed action, polarizing politics, and a highly contagious disease. To better understand what has happened and what might follow, Stacker constructed a timeline of the COVID-19 pandemic from its first mention by Dr. Li Wenliang in Wuhan, China. Our timeline includes information from a range of sources including news outlets such as the New York Times and CNN, Johns Hopkins' Coronavirus Resource Center, science articles, and releases from the World Health Organization (WHO). Keep reading for more information about the COVID-19 pandemic and a better understanding of how a highly contagious virus became a global health crisis.
Dec. 30, 2019: Chinese doctor sounds the alarm
Li Wenliang, a doctor working at Wuhan Central Hospital in Wuhan, China, sent out a text to a group of other doctors warning them to protect themselves against a new respiratory virus. Four days later, police summoned him and told him to sign a letter accusing him of false comments and disturbing the social order. Li died of the virus on Feb. 7.
Dec. 31, 2019: Chinese health authorities notice mysterious cases of pneumonia
In the meantime, the government of Wuhan did in fact confirm that its health authorities were treating dozens of cases of pneumonia from an unknown origin. Several of the infected people worked at Wuhan’s Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market. Wuhan is a city of 11 million people in China’s Hubei province and had become the start and center of a new epidemic.
Jan. 4, 2020: WHO starts tracking illnesses in Wuhan
The WHO announced on Jan. 4 it would start actively tracking a mysterious group of pneumonia cases in Wuhan, China. The organization's China office was first notified of the illnesses Dec. 31, 2019. By Jan. 5, the WHO issued its first publication on those cases. reporting on the status of patients and the response of public health officials.
Jan. 11: The first coronavirus death is reported
The first known death from the virus was reported by the Chinese state media. The victim was a 61-year-old man who was a regular customer at the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market and had underlying issues including “abdominal tumors and chronic liver disease.”
Jan. 13: The virus spreads to other countries
The first case outside of China was confirmed Jan. 13 in Thailand. Within the week, cases were found in Japan, South Korea, and—on Jan. 20—the United States. The first American case was in Washington State where a man in his 30s developed symptoms after a trip to Wuhan.
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Jan. 23: Wuhan is locked down
Jan. 30: WHO declares a Public Health Emergency
By Jan. 30, 9,800 people had been infected and 213 died around the world; the WHO declared the 2019-nCoV outbreak a “Public Health Emergency of International Concern.” The next day, the administration of President Donald Trump suspended entry into the United States for anyone who had traveled to China in the past 14 days who wasn’t an American citizen, family of an American citizen, or a permanent resident.
Feb. 2: First death outside of China
Feb. 5: Cruise ship quarantined off the coast of Japan
Feb. 11: The disease gets a new name
The WHO gave the disease caused by the novel coronavirus a new name: COVID-19. It was was chosen because it did not refer to a geographical area, animal, or group of people and because it was relatively easy to pronounce. The WHO wanted to “guard against the use of other names that might be inaccurate or stigmatizing.”
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