Editor’s Note: In part one, we covered from the first patient with Coronavirus in Wuhan through to the end of January 2020. In this section, we’ll cover the events from February through March, and in part three, we’ll round it off with the April through May timeline.
So far, through Jan. 31, 2020, we’ve seen that China was reluctant to share information on the spread of the virus even while the hotspot, Wuhan, held its annual New Lunar Year banquet with 40,000 families attending. The World Health Organization (WHO) decided against declaring it a public health emergency on an international level, and Dr. Anthony Fauci said people in the U.S. didn’t have to worry about the outbreak. Meanwhile, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar said Americans needed to be warned of the serious threat, and President Donald Trump stopped travel into the U.S. from China and started a task force to track and contain the virus.
The month of February continued with confusion and mayhem. China accused the U.S. of spreading fear because Trump restricted travel to and from the country, and the Chinese whistleblower, Dr. Li Wenliang, died from the virus.
At sea, the Diamond Princess cruise ship had to dock in Yokohama, Japan as passengers tested positive for Coronavirus, and Dr. Fauci announced that the risk of contracting the virus was “minuscule.” Another cruise ship, the Anthem of the Seas, was docked for days due to a virus scare, and WHO decided to name the disease caused by the virus “COVID-19” to prevent an anti-China stigma.
The Communist Party journal published information proving Chinese President Xi Jinping knew about the Coronavirus crisis and was advised how to prevent and contain the virus weeks before an official announcement was made. On Feb. 17, in an interview with USA Today, Dr. Fauci told the American people that “Now, in the United States, there is absolutely no reason whatsoever to wear a mask,” and that wearing a mask is for the infected to protect others.
Shall we continue? While WHO reported 77,000 cases worldwide, 443 Diamond Princess passengers left the ship with another 621 staying onboard because they were infected. Dr. Nancy Messonnier, head of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said it was likely we would have a pandemic. The Trump administration requested $2.5 billion from Congress to fight the Coronavirus and on that very same day, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) toured San Francisco’s Chinatown telling residents to support the neighborhood.
The first U.S. Coronavirus death was announced in Kirkland, WA while WHO said it “continues to advise against the application of travel restrictions to countries experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks.” On the same day, Dr. Fauci told Americans they do not need to change any of their activities while the Trump administration announced a level four travel advisory to Italy and South Korea. He barred all travel to Iran and entry of foreign citizens who had visited Iran in the past 14 days.
So, what did March reveal?
WHO said most cases of COVID-19 were mild, New York City saw its first reported case, and Dr. Fauci finally said that the virus had “now reached outbreak proportions and likely pandemic proportions” but that the death rate would not be as high as projected. The Trump administration provided millions toward help for the pandemic, and Dr. Fauci told Americans that if they were healthy, there was no reason they couldn’t take a cruise. Keep in mind that on Feb. 19, there were 621 passengers still aboard the Diamond Princess who had tested positive for the virus.
By the middle of the month, WHO finally declared a pandemic while President Trump banned travel and requested money for small businesses. U.S. and Mexico agreed to close border travel. The National Hockey League and Major League Baseball suspended their seasons. The Met Museum, Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, Metropolitan Opera, and Broadway shows were suspended. Disney closed its doors, and the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. canceled their events.
Iran announced it was releasing 54,000 inmates from prison and claimed 23 members of its parliament had tested positive for Coronavirus. President Trump donated his fourth quarter salary to fight the virus.
The stock market crashed, Trump declared a national emergency and freed up $50 million in federal resources, and the first vaccine trials began in Seattle, WA. President Trump invoked the Defense Production Act to direct industries to produce critical equipment, and United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for a global ceasefire to fight “the common enemy.”
Several big names reported either contracting the virus or self-quarantining after being exposed to someone who had tested positive for Coronavirus. Prince Charles and Senator Amy Klobuchar’s (D-MN) husband had the virus, with the latter being hospitalized. Sens. Mitt Romney (R-UT) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) were in self-quarantine, and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) tested positive for COVID-19. Actor Tom Hanks and Canada’s first lady also tested positive for the Coronavirus.
The U.S. unemployment claims hit more than 3.2 million new files, almost four times the record set during the 2008 recession. By March 26, the United States had more recorded Coronavirus cases than any other country. On the same day, in an article for The New England Journal of Medicine, Dr. Fauci said, “… the overall clinical consequences of COVID-19 may ultimately be more akin to those of severe seasonal influenza (which has a case fatality rate of approximately 0.1%) or a pandemic influenza (similar to those in 1957 and 1968) rather than a disease similar to SARS or MERS, which have had case fatality rates of 9 to 10% and 36%, respectively.”
President Trump signed a $2 trillion U.S. stimulus bill, which included a $1,200 check to Americans as well as an expansion of unemployment benefits. He also signed a bill reauthorizing the 1965 Older Americans Act, which establishes authority for grants to be given to states to help the elderly.
Trump began talking of loosening the lockdown restrictions and said, “We can’t let the cure be worse than the problem itself,” although he did extend social distancing guidelines and suggested they should stay in place until April 30.
With the unemployment rate so high and continuing to climb, on the last day of March the Treasury Department and IRS launched the employee retention credit, designed so that businesses would keep employees on their payroll.
These are only the highlights. For a full account, you can visit our timeline here.
In part three, we’ll see what disasters and mayhem happened during the months of April and May.
Read more from Kelli Ballard.