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This timeline of the COVID-19 pandemic shows how quickly the coronavirus has taken over our lives


Few people noticed New Year’s Eve last year when China reported to the World Health Organization a mysterious disease. But soon the never-before-seen coronavirus responsible for the disease infiltrated the rest of the world.

As we prepare to enter the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic, Science News looks at how the disease took hold in 2020 and how society has tried to fight it.

December 31, 2019

China notifies the World Health Organization of a group of cases of pneumonia of unknown cause in Wuhan.

January 9, 2020

The WHO announces that a new coronavirus is the cause of pneumonia.

January 10th

Scientists launch the complete genetic design of the virus.

January 13th

Thailand reports first known coronavirus infection outside of China. Within a week, Japan and South Korea are reporting cases.

January 21st

The first American infection was reported in Washington state.

Scientists announce that the virus can spread from person to person.

January 23rd

Wuhan enters blockade to stop the spread of the virus.

Initial coronavirus cases were linked to a market in Wuhan, China (shown before the pandemic). But now experts doubt that's where the outbreak began. Imaginechina Limited / Alamy Stock Photo

January 24th

France reports the first cases in Europe.

January 25th

Australia reports its first case.

January 30th

Scientists say an infected person spread the virus before showing symptoms.

February 3rd

The Diamond Princess cruise is quarantined in Japan. Finally, 712 of the 3,711 people on board tested positive. By mid-March, cruise passengers accounted for about 17 percent of known cases in the United States.

February 5th

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is launching a faulty COVID-19 diagnostic test, which delays the country’s ability to widely detect the virus.

SARS-CoV-2 SEM imageThe new coronavirus (round yellow objects in this scanning electron microscope image) was named SARS-CoV-2 in February. NIAID-RML

February 11th

Virologists call the virus "severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2" or SARS-CoV-2, because it is related to the virus that caused the outbreak of SARS 2002-2003. The disease caused by SARS-CoV-2 is called "COVID-19".

February 14th

Egypt reports the first case in Africa.

February 26th

Brazil reports the first case in South America.

March 9th

Italy begins a national blockade. Ten days later, the country’s COVID-19 deaths exceed 3,400, surpassing China’s death toll.

empty street of Rome with two soldiers and two tanks patrollingSoldiers patrolled Rome on March 9 when a national confinement began in Italy.Giuseppe Fama / Pacific Press / LightRocket via Getty Images

March 10th

After a choir in Washington state gathers for a practice, more than 80 percent of attendees become infected, suggesting airborne transmission of the virus.

March 11th

The WHO says the outbreak is a pandemic. The virus has spread to at least 114 countries, killed more than 4,000 people and infected nearly 120,000.

March 16th

COVID-19 vaccine safety testing begins in the United States and China.

March 17th

Contrary to conspiracy theories, one study confirms that the virus was not manufactured or released from a laboratory. Subsequent research suggests that a bat is the most likely source.

March 19th

California issues the first request to stay at home statewide.

March 27th

When the number of U.S. cases exceeds 100,000, the United States becomes the new epicenter of the pandemic.

Hydroxychloroquine tabletsOriginally approved for emergency use in some patients with COVID-19, hydroxychloroquine was not later found effective, and in June, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration revoked the authorization to treat patients with COVID-19 outside of clinical trials.amlanmathur / iStock / Getty Images Plus

March 28th

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration grants an emergency use authorization for hydroxychloroquine, an antimalarial drug, to treat some hospitalized patients.

April 2

Global cases have reached one million. More than 53,000 people died.

April 3

With evidence showing that the virus can be spread through the air and that asymptomatic people are contagious, the CDC recommends people use facials in public.

April 11

The death toll in the United States reaches 20,000 people, surpassing the death toll in Italy.

April 28

Cases in the United States reach one million.

five people with masks surround a hole for a graveIn May, cemetery workers buried the remains of people not claimed by relatives in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. The country still has one of the highest COVID-19 mortality rates in the world. David Peinado / NurPhoto via Getty Images

May 1

The FDA grants emergency authorization for the remdesivir of the antiviral drug to seriously ill patients after preliminary findings suggest the drug may shorten hospital stays.

May 14

The CDC sends advice on cases of a multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children who test positive for the virus.

June 15th

The FDA revokes the emergency use authorization for hydroxychloroquine after multiple studies showed no benefit.

June 16th

Dexamethasone, a steroid, is the first drug found to reduce deaths from COVID-19, among people sick enough to need respiratory support.

June 25th

China approves a vaccine for use by the military, before final safety and efficacy tests are completed.

June 28th

Less than six months after the name of the disease, more than 10 million people worldwide became infected with the virus and more than 500,000 died.

July 10th

Gilead Sciences, the manufacturer of remdesivir, claims the drug reduces the risk of death from COVID-19.

July 27th

Pfizer and Moderna are beginning to recruit tens of thousands of volunteers for late-stage clinical trials of their vaccines.

August 11th

Russian President Vladimir Putin has announced that a vaccine dubbed Sputnik V will be available to the general public, although all stages of testing have not yet been completed.

August 17th

A week into the fall semester, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill announces that all college classes will be moving online due to high infection rates on campus.

August 23rd

The FDA grants an emergency use authorization for convalescent plasma to treat hospitalized patients, despite the lack of clinical trials to assess whether the blood of recovered patients actually helps fight the disease.

August 25

The first report of a person being re-infected with the virus raises concerns about how long immunity lasts.

September 28th

More than 1 million people died from COVID-19; more than 40 percent of deaths occurred in the United States, Brazil and India.

October 2nd

President Donald Trump tweets that he is infected, becoming the latest in a series of world leaders to get COVID-19. He is later hospitalized and receives remdesivir, dexamethasone and an experimental antibody treatment.

Donald Trump wore a surgical mask giving a thumbs upPresident Donald Trump left the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, on October 5 after receiving treatment for COVID-19.SAUL LOEB / AFP via Getty Images

October 22nd

Remdesivir becomes the first drug to obtain full FDA approval to treat COVID-19. A week earlier, however, a WHO study found that the drug does not reduce deaths from COVID-19, counteracting the manufacturer's earlier claim.

October 23rd

Investigators reported that Hispanic and black residents are disproportionately represented among U.S. COVID-19 deaths. From May to August, Hispanics or Latinos accounted for 24.2 percent of all deaths. Non-Hispanic blacks accounted for 18.7 percent of deaths.

November 9th

Based on preliminary data, Pfizer says its vaccine appears to be 90 percent effective in preventing people from getting coronavirus disease. Subsequent findings suggest an efficiency of 95 percent.

The FDA grants emergency use authorization for Eli Lilly monoclonal antibody therapy. Laboratory-made antibodies can keep virus levels low in newly infected people and prevent hospitalizations.

aligned car lines for COVID testingWith COVID-19 cases popping up across the United States, people in El Paso, Texas, organized for driving tests on Nov. 9.Joel Angel Juarez / Bloomberg via Getty Images

November 16th

Modern says its vaccine is 95 percent effective.

November 20th

Pfizer is requesting FDA emergency approval for its vaccine. Ten days later, Moderna requests the same.

November 23rd

AstraZeneca reports that its vaccine is 62 to 90 percent effective.

December 2nd

The UK is cleaning up the Pfizer vaccine for emergency use.

December 10th

An advisory committee recommends that the FDA grant an emergency use authorization for Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine.

Worldwide cases exceed 69 million, with more than 1.5 million deaths.

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