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.
Scientists launch the complete genetic design of the virus.
Thailand reports first known coronavirus infection outside of China. Within a week, Japan and South Korea are reporting cases.
The first American infection was reported in Washington state.
Scientists announce that the virus can spread from person to person.
Wuhan enters blockade to stop the spread of the virus.
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France reports the first cases in Europe.
Australia reports its first case.
Scientists say an infected person spread the virus before showing symptoms.
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.
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.
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".
Egypt reports the first case in Africa.
Brazil reports the first case in South America.
Italy begins a national blockade. Ten days later, the country’s COVID-19 deaths exceed 3,400, surpassing China’s death toll.
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After a choir in Washington state gathers for a practice, more than 80 percent of attendees become infected, suggesting airborne transmission of the virus.
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.
COVID-19 vaccine safety testing begins in the United States and China.
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.
California issues the first request to stay at home statewide.
When the number of U.S. cases exceeds 100,000, the United States becomes the new epicenter of the pandemic.
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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration grants an emergency use authorization for hydroxychloroquine, an antimalarial drug, to treat some hospitalized patients.
Global cases have reached one million. More than 53,000 people died.
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.
The death toll in the United States reaches 20,000 people, surpassing the death toll in Italy.
Cases in the United States reach one million.
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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.
The CDC sends advice on cases of a multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children who test positive for the virus.
The FDA revokes the emergency use authorization for hydroxychloroquine after multiple studies showed no benefit.
Dexamethasone, a steroid, is the first drug found to reduce deaths from COVID-19, among people sick enough to need respiratory support.
China approves a vaccine for use by the military, before final safety and efficacy tests are completed.
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.
Gilead Sciences, the manufacturer of remdesivir, claims the drug reduces the risk of death from COVID-19.
Pfizer and Moderna are beginning to recruit tens of thousands of volunteers for late-stage clinical trials of their vaccines.
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.
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.
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.
The first report of a person being re-infected with the virus raises concerns about how long immunity lasts.
More than 1 million people died from COVID-19; more than 40 percent of deaths occurred in the United States, Brazil and India.
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.
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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.
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.
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.
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Modern says its vaccine is 95 percent effective.
Pfizer is requesting FDA emergency approval for its vaccine. Ten days later, Moderna requests the same.
AstraZeneca reports that its vaccine is 62 to 90 percent effective.
The UK is cleaning up the Pfizer vaccine for emergency use.
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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