A comprehensive timeline of the coronavirus pandemic at 12 months, from China's first case to the present
  • The 1-year anniversary of the coronavirus pandemic has arrived: The first case was confirmed in Wuhan, China, in December 2019.
  • Chinese government data suggests the virus was likely circulating by mid-November.
  • In the year since, the virus has infected more than 64 million people and killed nearly 1.5 million.
  • Here is a timeline of the most significant events and milestones of the pandemic.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

November 17, 2019: A person displayed the first detectable case of COVID-19 in China.

The 55-year-old from Hubei Province was the first known case of COVID-19 in the world (though it didn't have that name yet), and one of hundreds identified by Chinese authorities in 2019, according to an investigation by the South China Morning Post.

However, Chinese medical experts didn't realize they were dealing with a new virus until late December. Many cases were likely backdated after health authorities took samples from suspected cases, according to the investigation.

December 31, 2019: Chinese Health officials informed the World Health Organization about a cluster of 41 patients with a mysterious pneumonia in the city of Wuhan.

Researchers think the coronavirus originated in bats, then may have jumped to an intermediary species that passed it to people.

January 1, 2020: Chinese authorities closed the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, to which many cases in that early cluster had links.

Although the market was initially suspected to be the site where the outbreak first started, research has suggested that it simply boosted transmission via an early superspreader event.

Still, China has since banned the buying, selling, and transportation of wild animals in markets, restaurants, and online marketplaces. 

January 7: Chinese authorities identified the virus that caused the illness as a new type of coronavirus.

Other viruses in the coronavirus family cause pneumonia, SARS, and some common colds.

January 11: China recorded its first coronavirus death. Chinese researchers also published the virus' genetic sequence.

The first person to die was a 61-year-old man who was a frequent customer at the Huanan market.

After researchers published the genetic sequence of the coronavirus, at least two companies quickly got to work creating vaccine candidates: Moderna and BioNTech.

January 13: The first coronavirus case outside China was reported in Thailand.

A 61-year-old female tourist in Thailand was diagnosed on January 13. She'd recently spent time in Wuhan. Airports in Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand, and South Korea began to screen passengers for fever.

January 20: The US reported its first case: a 35-year-old man in Snohomish County, Washington.

The man left Wuhan and landed at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on January 15. He reported to a clinic with pneumonia symptoms on January 19, then was diagnosed with the coronavirus a day later.

January 23: Chinese authorities placed the 11-million-person city of Wuhan under quarantine, and the rest of the Hubei province followed days later.

The Hubei lockdowns affected an estimated 60 million people, making China's action the largest quarantine in history at the time.

January 30: The WHO declared a public-health emergency of international concern.

The WHO's "global public-health emergency" determination has been around since 2005 and had been used five times before.

Those instances were the Ebola outbreak that started in 2013 in West Africa, another Ebola outbreak that's been ongoing in the Democratic Republic of Congo since 2018, the 2016 Zika epidemic, polio in war zones in 2014, and the swine-flu pandemic in 2009.

January 31: President Donald Trump banned foreign nationals from entering the US if they'd been in China within the prior two weeks.

February 2: The first coronavirus death outside of China was recorded in the Philippines.

February 6: A person in California died from COVID-19, the first known American death.

Santa Clara County officials found via autopsies that three people who died in their homes on February 6, February 17, and March 6 had the coronavirus.

Before those cases were identified, officials thought that a fatality reported in Washington state on February 29 was the earliest US death from the virus.

February 7: Wuhan doctor and whistleblower Li Wenliang died. At the onset of the outbreak, Li warned contacts from medical school about a new virus but was reprimanded by authorities.

Li was forced to sign a letter saying he made "false comments" after he alerted fellow doctors about the worrisome SARS-like disease. 

Li caught the coronavirus himself and died a little more than a month later. He left behind a son and pregnant wife. After his death, Chinese social media was filled with outpourings of grief and anger. Many posts featured a hashtag saying "We want freedom of speech."

February 9: The death toll in China surpassed that of the 2002-2003 SARS epidemic, which killed 774 people globally.

Both SARS and the new coronavirus come from the same family of viruses, and they share 80% of their genetic codes.

SARS infected 8,098 people globally over eight months in 2002 and 2003. The total global COVID-19 case count surpassed that of SARS in just a month. By February 9, the new coronavirus' death toll in China exceeded the total number of people killed worldwide by SARS. 

February 11: The WHO announced that the disease caused by the new coronavirus would be called COVID-19.

"We had to find a name that did not refer to a geographical location, an animal, an individual, or group of people," WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, adding that the WHO wanted a name that was "pronounceable and related to the disease."

February 14: A Chinese tourist who tested positive for the virus died in France, becoming Europe's first death tied to the outbreak.

February 19: Iran's coronavirus outbreak began to grow.

Iran's schools and universities closed February 23, as did movie theaters and cultural centers. The country released 54,000 prisoners to prevent outbreaks in its prisons.

According to Reuters, 23 members of Iran's parliament — 8% — had gotten the coronavirus by early March. Fatemeh Rahbar, a conservative lawmaker from Tehran, died.

February 21: COVID-19 cases spiked in Italy.

The country's coronavirus caseload skyrocketed at the end of February — more than 110,000 people were infected at the time. In total, more than 1.75 million people have gotten the coronavirus in Italy.

February 29-March 19: Nearly all US states declared a state of emergency.

The announcements enabled states to activate emergency response plans and spend money to deploy additional personnel, buy equipment, and prepare stockpiles of supplies.

March 9: Italy placed all 60 million residents under lockdown.

The country initially saw two regions in the north become hotspots, so locked down towns there on February 23. Then on March 9, the government expanded the restriction zone to encompass the entire nation.

March 11: The WHO declared the outbreak a pandemic.

The WHO made the designation based on the geographic spread of the disease, the severity of illnesses it causes, and its effects on society.

"Pandemic is not a word to use lightly or carelessly," Tedros said.

March 11: President Trump banned travel from 26 European countries.

The ban went into effect on March 13. The UK and Ireland were later added. The ban did not prevent US citizens and some other groups from entering the country from Europe.

March 13: Trump declared a national emergency.

The declaration triggered the Stafford Act and allowed for more federal aid to states and municipalities.

Congress also passed a roughly $2 trillion stimulus package.

March 19: China reported no new locally spread infections for the first time since the pandemic began.

March 23: New York City became the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the US.

New York state has recorded more than 722,000 cases in total, though many early cases in the spring weren't counted due to limited testing capabilities. More than 35,000 people there have died. 

March 26: The US became the world leader in confirmed cases with 82,404, surpassing China's total of 81,782 at the time.


March 31: More than one-third of humanity was under some form of lockdown.

April 2: The world passed 1 million COVID-19 cases.


April 7: Roughly 95% of all Americans were under some form of lockdown as a result of state, county, or city orders.

Governors in 42 states had issued stay-at-home orders by the end of March, affecting a total of 308 million people, or about 95% of the US population.

April 10: The global death toll surpassed 100,000.

April 14: President Trump ordered a halt on $400 million in US funding for the World Health Organization.

Trump blamed the WHO for "severely mismanaging and covering up the spread of the coronavirus."

April 24: Coronavirus cases began to spike in Brazil.

Brazil has reported more than 6.6 million cases — the world's third-highest total after the US and India.

May 11: Many countries, including Spain, Iran, Italy, New Zealand, and Thailand, began to ease lockdown restrictions.

May 16: Coronavirus cases begin to surge in India.

India has reported more than 9.7 million coronavirus cases. More than 140,000 people there have died of COVID-19.

May 21: The number of global COVID-19 cases surpassed 5 million.

June 28: Global cases surpassed 10 million, and global deaths surpassed 500,000.

By June 30 — six months after China confirmed the existence of this new virus — authorities had reported more than 10 million cases globally. About half of those infections were still active and ongoing, while the other half of people had recovered.


September 2: The WHO issued a strong recommendation for the use of steroids among seriously ill COVID-19 patients.

The organization based its recommendation on the results of seven clinical trials, which found that seriously ill COVID-19 patients given steroids were significantly less likely to die.

September 22: US deaths from COVID-19 topped 200,000.

In March, disease modelers predicted that COVID-19 would kill as many as 195,000 people in the US by the end of the year. The country reached that number three months earlier than expected. 

The disease has killed more Americans than every war US troops have died in since 1945 combined. The US's current death toll stands at more than 285,000. 



September 28: Global deaths surpassed 1 million.

Combined, the US, Brazil, and India combined accounted for nearly half of that total.

The 1 million figure number is known to be an undercount, given the lack of widespread testing in many nations, as well as suspected concealment of cases and deaths in some countries like Russia and Brazil.

November 9: Pfizer and BioNTech announced that their vaccine candidate was more than 90% effective in preventing COVID-19 in Phase 3 trials.

The companies designed and tested the vaccine in just under 10 months. Prior to 2020, the quickest vaccine development timeline ever was for mumps, at over four years.

Less than two weeks later, on November 18 Pfizer, and BioNTech announced that a final analysis showed their vaccine candidate to be 95% effective. 

November 16: Moderna announced that its vaccine candidate was more than 94% effective.

November 23: AstraZeneca announced that its vaccine was 70% effective on average. But its results soon came under scrutiny.

It turned out that researchers had given some participants a half-dose for their first shot by mistake. Among the group that got a half-dose shot followed by a full dose — which consisted entirely of people under 55 — the vaccine was found to be 90% effective.

Among the rest of the trial participants, who got two full doses, the vaccine showed 60% effectiveness. The 70% figure came from averaging the two cohorts' results.

AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot told Bloomberg that the company would likely launch a new global trial of the vaccine because of the skewed data. 

December 2: Britain authorized Pfizer and BioNtech's vaccine candidate.

"This is a day to remember, frankly, in a year to forget," British Health Secretary Matt Hancock said, according to the Associated Press.

This story was originally published on March 19. It has been updated with new information.

Dave Mosher and Holly Secon contributed reporting.

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