COVID-19 Timeline, December 2019 through May 2020

This research document is being prepared by Chiron Return, Inc., an affiliate of the Pacifica Radio Network.


The novel coronavirus was first detected in early December in Wuhan, China.

The initial outbreak was first reported in China on December 31 to the World Health Organization (WHO) at the end of December, but neglected to mention growing evidence that the virus could spread by human-to-human transmission through airborne droplets.

January 1 WHO sets up the IMST (Incident Management Support Team) across the three levels of the organization: headquarters, regional headquarters and country level, putting the organization on an emergency footing for dealing with the outbreak.

January 4 WHO reported on social media that there was a cluster of pneumonia cases – with no deaths – in Wuhan, Hubei province.

January 5 WHO published its first Disease Outbreak News on the new virus, containing a risk assessment and advice, and reporting on what China had told the organization about the status of patients and the public health response on the cluster of pneumonia cases in Wuhan.

January 10 WHO issued a comprehensive package of technical guidance online with advice to all countries on how to detect, test and manage potential cases, based on what was known about the virus at the time. Laboratory testing guidance, Community Readiness, National Capacities Review tool

By January 10, a Shanghai laboratory had sequenced the virus’ genome

German scientists produced the first diagnostic test a week later.

January 11 China reported its first death.

January 12 China publicly shared the genetic sequence of COVID-19.

January 13 Officials confirm a case of COVID-19 in Thailand, the first recorded case outside of China.

January 14 WHO posts a tweet saying the following: “Preliminary investigations conducted by the Chinese authorities have found no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission of the novel #coronavirus (2019-nCoV) identified in #Wuhan, #China”

January 14 WHO’s technical lead, Maria Van Kerkhove, noted in a press briefing there may have been limited human-to-human transmission of the coronavirus (in the 41 confirmed cases), mainly through family members, and that there was a risk of a possible wider outbreak. The lead also said that human-to-human transmission would not be surprising given our experience with SARS, MERS and other respiratory pathogens.WHO says coronavirus could spread

January 17, the WHO publishes its protocols, based on the German test

January 20 The United States has its first confirmed case of coronavirus through travel: a man in Washington State.

January 21 WHO experts from its China and Western Pacific regional offices conducted a brief field visit to Wuhan.

January 22 WHO mission to China issued a statement saying that there was evidence of human-to-human transmission in Wuhan but more investigation was needed to understand the full extent of transmission.

January 22 The WHO Director- General convened an Emergency Committee (EC) under the International Health Regulations (IHR 2005) to assess whether the outbreak constituted a public health emergency of international concern. The independent members from around the world could not reach a consensus based on the evidence available at the time. They asked to be reconvened within 10 days after receiving more information.

“We have it totally under control.”— President Trump, in an interview, on Jan. 22

January 23 Wuhan, a city of more than 11 million, was cut off by the Chinese authorities. Wuhan’s transit shutdown

The CDC shared the details of the U.S. test publicly on Jan. 24. CDC Press telebriefing

January 24 The CDC says that it has developed a sophisticated diagnostic test and has sought F.D.A. permission to send it to public labs around the country.

January 28 Op Ed by Luciana Borio, the former head of medical and biodefense preparedness at the National Security Council, and Scott Gottlieb, who led the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) from May 2017 to April 2019: Act Now to Prevent an American Epidemic – Quarantines, flu vaccines and other steps to take before the Wuhan virus becomes widespread. “[T]he CDC will struggle to keep up with the volume of screening. Government should focus on working with private industry to develop easy-to-use, rapid diagnostic tests that can be made available to providers.” [The CDC did the opposite, issuing narrow testing guidelines.]

January 28 A senior WHO delegation led by the Director-General travelled to Beijing to meet China’s leadership, learn more about China’s response, and to offer any technical assistance.

January 27, CDC issued narrow guidance on which patients qualified for a test — only those with recent travel to Wuhan or those who had come into contact with an infected person.

January 29 The White House announces a coronavirus task force led by the health secretary, Alex M. Azar II. President Trump attends the group’s first meeting and tweets that the experts “are on top of it.”

January 30 The W.H.O. declared a global health emergency. The WHO Director-General reconvened the Emergency Committee (EC). This was earlier than the 10-day period and only two days after the first reports of limited human-to-human transmission were reported outside China. This time, the EC reached consensus and advised the Director-General that the outbreak constituted a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). The Director-General accepted the recommendation and declared the novel coronavirus outbreak (2019-nCoV) a PHEIC. This is the 6th time WHO has declared a PHEIC since the International Health Regulations (IHR) came into force in 2005.

January 31, Azar declared a “public health emergency,” announcing travel restrictions — including barring noncitizens who had recently visited China from entering the United States — in an effort to curtail the virus’s spread inside the country. The declaration triggered emergency testing protocols, which increased restrictions on which labs could make a coronavirus test. Any lab would be required to acquire an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from the FDA to perform testing for covid-19. The FDA granted the CDC the first EUA.

Late January ‘Criminal Negligence’: Trump Officials Ignored Company’s Offer to Make 7 Million N95 Masks Per Month.

The World Health Organization began shipping its tests out to countries during the first week of February.

Early February – Stanford University develops its own test for the coronavirus but runs into regulatory roadblocks at the F.D.A.

The US opted to develop its own test, but the distribution was limited. Other countries, like China, developed their own tests as well.

In the early weeks of the pandemic, the United States recorded an estimated 15,400 excess deaths, nearly two times as many as were publicly attributed to covid-19 at the time: https://www.washingtonpost.com/investigations/2020/04/27/covid-19-death-toll-undercounted/?arc404=true

February 2 The first coronavirus death was reported outside China.

February 3 WHO releases the international community’s Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan to help protect states with weaker health systems.

The US test was approved by the Food and Drug Administration on February 4 — around two weeks after the first case was reported in Washington and more than a month after the outbreak was first reported in China.

Early” CDC test couldn’t distinguish between coronavirus and water.

Feb. 4: FDA issues EUA requiring CDC to retest all positive results.

CDC finally started to send kits to state and local health labs on 5 February.

February 5 A cruise ship in Japan quarantined thousands.

February 6 Officials in Santa Clara County, Calif., announced on April 21 that two residents there died of the coronavirus on Feb. 6 and Feb. 17, making them the earliest known victims of the pandemic in the United States

The CDC-manufactured kits were sent to state labs on Feb. 6 and Feb. 7. CDC press release

February 7 A Chinese doctor who tried to raise the alarm died.

“We’re in great shape, though. We have 12 cases, 11 cases and many of them are in good shape. ” –Trump, in remarks, on Feb. 10

February 11 The disease the virus causes was named COVID-19.

But on 12 February, it revealed that several labs had difficulty validating the test because of a problem with one of the reagents. A problem with one ingredient in the US tests caused more than half of state labs to receive inconclusive results. Health experts said the glitch was unprecedented.

February 11- 12 WHO convened a Research and Innovation Forum on COVID-19, attended by more than 400 experts and funders from around the world, which included presentations by George Gao, Director General of China CDC, and Zunyou Wu, China CDC’s chief epidemiologist.

Azar testified on Feb. 13 that he intended to implement a pilot program, adding coronavirus surveillance to the existing flu surveillance networks. But it never came to fruition. There were not enough tests to make it happen.

February 14 France announced the first coronavirus death in Europe.

February 14, Experts share concern that procedures on the quarantined ship will increase infection risk.

February 16-24 The WHO-China Joint mission, which included experts from Canada, Germany, Japan, Nigeria, Republic of Korea, Russia, Singapore and the US (CDC, NIH) spent time in Beijing and also travelled to Wuhan and two other cities. They spoke with health officials, scientists and health workers in health facilities (maintaining physical distancing). The report of the joint mission can be found here: WHO-China Joint Mission report

By Feb. 16, the CDC and state public health labs tested nearly 1,600 specimens. As a rule of thumb, two specimens are required per person, meaning that in total, only about 800 people had been tested. That’s roughly 2.4 tests per million people in the United States.

Even as coronavirus testing remained limited nationwide, the CDC reminded hospitals on Feb. 18 that they shouldn’t do their own testing without an “emergency use authorization” from the FDA.

February 19 Hundreds left the quarantined cruise. A scientist onboard the quarantined ship calls conditions “completely chaotic”.

February 21 A secretive church was linked to the outbreak in South Korea.

February 23 Italy saw a major surge in cases.

February 24 Iran emerged as a second focus point.

On Feb. 24, state public health labs made an unusual plea for the FDA to open testing.

The chief executive of the Association of Public Health Laboratories writes to the F.D.A. that “we are now many weeks into the response with still no diagnostic or surveillance test available outside of C.D.C. for the vast majority of our member laboratories.”

Feb. 25 – Azar boasts to Congress about his agency’s “aggressive response” to the coronavirus. Alex Azar in Senate hearing.

A total of 12 other labs received EUAs from the FDA by late February.

February 26 Latin America reported its first case.

On Wednesday, February 26, under pressure from health experts and public officials, the CDC and the FDA told labs they no longer had to worry about the portion of the test intended “for the universal detection of SARS-like coronaviruses.” After three weeks of struggle, they could now use the test purely to check for the presence of COVID-19.

“It’s going to disappear. One day — it’s like a miracle — it will disappear.” — Trump, in remarks, on Feb. 27

February 28 Infections spiked in Europe.

February 28 Sub-Saharan Africa recorded its first infection.

The FDA began allowing academic hospital labs to develop and use their own coronavirus tests on February 29.

February 29 The United States reported the first COVID-19 death.

On Saturday, February 29, the FDA announced an “accelerated policy … to achieve more rapid testing capacity in the United States,” allowing academic hospital labs capable of performing high-quality testing to develop and begin using their own tests to detect COVID-19. Before now, hospital labs weren’t sent test kits by the CDC and the FDA required an extensive review process even if the hospitals had internally validated their tests. Under the new policy, the FDA review will still be required, but labs will be able to start using their diagnostics once they are internally validated. https://www.propublica.org/article/cdc-coronavirus-covid-19-test

By March, doctors reported that they still hadn’t received enough tests to diagnose potential cases.

Researchers at the Seattle Flu Study said the number of cases in Washington may have reached 570 by March 1, but the stringent testing criteria meant fewer cases were reported.

On March 3, the restrictions on who qualified for a test were dissolved.

Vice President Pence said on March 4 that more than 2,500 kits were being distributed across the country that week — enough for 1.5 million tests.

By Sunday, March 4, the CDC had tested fewer than 2,000 people. South Korea and China, meanwhile, had tested hundreds of thousands.

“Anybody that needs a test, gets a test. They’re there. They have the tests. And the tests are beautiful.” — Trump, in remarks at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, March 6

By March 8, the United States reported 518 cases and had completed 3,099 tests, according to the Covid Tracking Project. That is roughly 9.5 tests per million people.

A long-term care facility in Seattle, home to one the biggest coronavirus outbreaks in the US, said it didn’t have enough tests for 65 symptomatic employees on Monday, March 9.

The CDC said coronavirus testing was available in all 50 states as of Monday, March 9.

In New York, where nearly 200 cases have been confirmed, March 11, Gov. Cuomo says testing capacity is still limited.

March 11 President Trump blocked most visitors from continental Europe.

March 11 Deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity, and by the alarming levels of inaction, WHO made the assessment that COVID-19 can be characterized as a pandemic. WHO declares coronavirus pandemic

March 13 COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund launched to receive donations from private individuals, corporations and institutions.

March 13 President Trump declared a national emergency.

On Sunday, March 15, [according to ProPublica: https://www.propublica.org/article/the-fda-is-forcing-the-cdc-to-waste-time-double-testing-some-coronavirus-cases; however, the letter I found is dated 3/30: https://www.fda.gov/media/136572/download] the Food and Drug Administration revised its Emergency Use Authorization to no longer require public health laboratories to send their tests to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for confirmation.

March 15 The C.D.C. recommended no gatherings of 50 or more people in the U.S.

March 16 Latin America began to feel the effects.

March 17 France imposed a nationwide lockdown.

March 17 The E.U. barred most travelers from outside the bloc.

March 18 WHO and partners launch the Solidarity Trial, an international clinical trial that aims to generate robust data from around the world to find the most effective treatments for COVID-19.

March 19 For the first time, China reported zero local infections.

March 20 FDA commissioner Stephen Hahn announces approval of rapid ‘point-of-care’ tests. Officials decline to give number of tests that will be produced, but say they are aiming to produce “millions in the next few months”.

From March 22 to April 11New York saw 14,403 more deaths than the average of the previous six years.

March 23 Prime Minister Boris Johnson locked Britain down.

March 24 India announced a 21-day lockdown.

March 26 The United States led the world in confirmed cases.

As of March 28, exactly four weeks after the FDA loosened the rules for testing, the United States still performed only 2,250 tests per million.

Jeremy Konyndyk, a senior policy fellow at the Center for Global Development put the failure simply: “The reason [the lack of testing] has been such a damaging shortcoming in the U.S. response is it basically left us blind to the spread of the virus in our country for about six or seven weeks.

March 28 The C.D.C. issued a travel advisory for the New York region. NY travel advisory response

March 30 More states issued stay-at-home directives.

March 31 several doctors and professors made comments on the various types of tests and their efficacy: https://www.sciencemediacentre.org/expert-comment-on-different-types-of-testing-for-covid-19)-/

People with coronavirus are dying 10 years earlier than they would have naturally: Study

April 2 Cases topped one million, and millions lost their jobs.

April 3 Trump says his administration is now recommending Americans wear “non-medical cloth” face coverings, a reversal of previous guidance that suggested masks were unnecessary for people who weren’t sick.

April 8 Companies planned vaccine trials. At least two dozen companies have announced vaccine programs aimed at ending the pandemic, including Novavax, a Maryland-based biotech firm that said it would begin human trials in Australia in mid-May. Johnson & Johnson plans to start clinical trials in September, Moderna began a clinical trial for its vaccine in March, and Inovio Pharmaceuticals injected its trial vaccine into the first volunteers in April.

April China reopens Wuhan after a 76-day lockdown.

April 10 Cases surged in Russia.

April 11 Over 550 crew members aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt test positive for coronavirus.

April 14 President Trump stops U.S. funding of the W.H.O.

April 19 Chile issued ‘immunity cards’ to people who have recovered from the virus.

April 23 The White House announces it has enough test kits for a phase one reopening.

April 24 The Federal Drug Administration warns against the use of hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malarial drug touted by President Trump as a coronavirus treatment.

April 24 The E.U. appeared to succumb to pressure from Beijing and softened criticism of China in a report on disinformation about the coronavirus pandemic.

April 25 The World Health Organization reports that there is still no evidence that recovered patients are immune from the coronavirus.

April 27 Scientists at Oxford University appeared to have a head start on a vaccine for the new coronavirus, having proved in a trial last year that a similar inoculation against an earlier coronavirus was harmless to humans. They then embarked on tests hoping to show by the end of May that the vaccine also works.

April 27 Famotidine, a common over-the-counter heartburn medication, begins testing trials in New York City as a possible coronavirus treatment.

May 1 The Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency approval for the antiviral drug remdesivir as a treatment for Covid-19.

May 1 The W.H.O. extended its declaration of a global public health emergency.

May 4 UK scientists create coronavirus antibody test with ‘99.8% accuracy and results in 35 minutes’.

May 5 Whistleblower: Trump team ignored warnings on drug, virus.

May 13 A top W.H.O. official said the coronavirus ‘may never go away.’

May 13 Trump is pressuring the CDC to change its death-toll methodology and produce a lower figure.

May 18 Every state that reopened has seen a corresponding rise in infection rates (Twitter thread showing Johns Hopkins data).

May 20 ‘We’ve been muzzled’: CDC sources say White House putting politics ahead of science.

May 21  Reported coronavirus cases top 5 million worldwide.

May 22 C.D.C. Test Counting Error Leaves Epidemiologists ‘Really Baffled’ – The Centers for Disease Control has been lumping together tests for active coronavirus with tests for recovered patients, boosting testing totals but muddying the pandemic’s course: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/22/us/politics/coronavirus-tests-cdc.html

May 22 CDC estimates that 35% of coronavirus patients don’t have symptoms: https://edition.cnn.com/2020/05/22/health/cdc-coronavirus-estimates-symptoms-deaths/index.html

May 22 FL: Ousted manager was told to manipulate COVID-19 data before state’s re-opening, she says – Rebekah Jones said the deputy Secretary of Health asked for misleading data on rural counties: o https://www.tampabay.com/news/health/2020/05/22/ousted-manager-was-told-to-manipulate-covid-19-data-before-states-re-opening-she-says/

May 23 China reports no new symptomatic coronavirus cases, the first time since the beginning of the outbreak in December.

Sources for facts without links:

Business Insider Timeline: https://www.businessinsider.com/us-coronavirus-testing-problems-timeline-2020-3

Washington Post Timeline: https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2020/03/30/11-100000-what-went-wrong-with-coronavirus-testing-us/

NY Times Testing Timeline: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/28/us/coronavirus-testing-timeline.html

NY Times Pandemic Timeline: https://www.nytimes.com/article/coronavirus-timeline.html

WHO Timeline: https://www.who.int/news-room/detail/27-04-2020-who-timeline—covid-19

CNN Timeline: https://www.cnn.com/2020/02/06/health/wuhan-coronavirus-timeline-fast-facts/index.html

Think Global Health Timeline: https://www.thinkglobalhealth.org/article/updated-timeline-coronavirus

NY Post Timeline: https://nypost.com/2020/04/29/coronavirus-timeline-how-the-disease-spread-throughout-the-us/

Wikipedia Timeline: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_the_2019%E2%80%9320_coronavirus_pandemic

Leave a Comment