COVID-19 News: A Timeline of Pandemic Developments

The coronavirus pandemic continues to stack up case numbers and complicate modern life as we get closer to wrapping up 2020, a grueling year.


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For those of us who were quick to set aside the danger-promoting aspects of our respective selfishness earlier in 2020, the trademarks of the COVID-19 pandemic era—masks, staying the f*ck away from everyone, closely guarding our mental health—have become second nature.

The monotony is so ingrained at this point, in fact, that it feels downright impossible that more than a year has passed since (what would later be determined to be) the very first recorded case of COVID-19 was detected. Still, far too many people—particularly in the U.S.—continue to go about their usual whateverisms as though the pandemic never even happened.

But not only did the pandemic happen, despite what reply guys who use made-up words like "plandemic" and "sheeple" would have you believe, the pandemic remains a trauma that is very much still happening.

Below, we've put together a (continually updated) list of key pandemic news dating back to mid-November of last year.

Jan. 15: The global death toll from COVID-19 reached a grim milestone Friday, when Johns Hopkins University confirmed that it surpassed 2 million, per CNN.

Jan. 12: A 24/7 vaccine site is coming to Citi Field in New York City. Per journalist Pat Kiernan, the site is projected to open no later than Jan. 25 and boasts the ability to vaccinate between 5000 and 7000 people daily. Those in NYC also have access to the continually updated Vaccine Finder site, available here.

And for those in California, a state which is still reporting truly dire COVID-19 numbers, the Disneyland Resort in Orange County will host what's described in this Entertainment Weekly report as the "first Super POD site" in the nation. Dodgers Stadium in Los Angeles is also being transformed into a high-traffic vaccine site by the end of this week.

Jan. 11: While optimism is admirable, many health officials—including the World Health Organization (WHO)—are urging people worldwide to take seriously the task of social distancing through (most likely) the end of 2021.

At a press briefing on Monday, per CNN, WHO's chief scientist Dr. Soumya Swaminathan said we aren't going to hit "any level of population immunity or herd immunity" this year.

"And even if it happens in a couple of pockets in a few countries, it's not going to protect people across the world," Dr. Swaminathan said, adding that social distancing measures should be kept at the forefront "for the rest of this year at least."

Also on Monday, the death toll from COVID-19 in California hit 30,000. While it took the state roughly six months to top 10,000 confirmed deaths, the leap from 20,000 to 30,000 happened in about a month, per KTLA.

Jan. 8: Starting Friday, more than two million people in the Greater Brisbane area will be required to stay at home after the discovery of a single of a new COVID-19 variant.

"If we are going to stop the spread of this infectious strain, this U.K. strain, we must act immediately," Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk told reporters, per CBS News.

Jan. 7: The U.S. reported more than 4,000 deaths from COVID-19 on Thursday, marking the most virus-related deaths in the country in a single day since the beginning of the pandemic. Per Johns Hopkins University, Thursday also marked the third day in a row of record-setting daily death totals from the pandemic. Meanwhile, more than 21 million people have been infected.

Jan. 4: The FDA warned members of Congress, notably during a pivotal week for lawmakers, that the tests made available to them unfortunately yield a troubling high rate of false negatives. The tests in question are administered by Curative, a start-up, and have not had their positive test result accuracy levels brought into question. As outlined in an NBC News report, the only cause for "potential concern" are negative test results.

Dec. 31: The Presidential Inaugural Committee announced a special tribute will take place on the eve of Biden's inauguration honoring those who have lost their lives to the COVID-19 pandemic. The tribute, set for Jan. 19, will feature what's been called the first-ever lighting around the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool. The committee is also asking cities around the country to join in on the memorial by illuminating buildings and ringing church bells as part of a "national moment of unity and remembrance."

Dec. 21: Joe Biden, as promised, shared footage of himself receiving a COVID-19 vaccine. Biden praised all those who made the quickly produced vaccine possible, telling reporters he was "looking forward" to receiving his second dosage.

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Also on Monday, we finally got some news on the stimulus front. Most Americans will receive a $600 check as part of a new relief bill, and the vast majority of politicians appear to believe that's somehow enough to make a dent in anything. The package was passed by Congress on Monday and will be signed by Trump shortly.

Dec. 20: Flights from the UK have now been halted in Canada, who becomes the latest nation to do so in response to what's described as "a new variant" of COVID-19. This variant, per CNN, has resulted in UK officials imposing a tier-four lockdown in London and southeastern England.

Dec. 18: Mike Pence, who's notably part of an administration that spent the bulk of 2020 downplaying the severity of the pandemic, received the Pfizer vaccine on live television alongside Karen Pence and Surgeon General Jerome Adams.

Dec. 17: On Thursday, the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee voted 20-0 to recommend that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approve Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine, the Associated Press reports. One of the panel member abstained from voting. The F.D.A. is expected to follow the recommendation and approve the vaccine for emergency use authorization as soon as later on Thursday with shipments possibly rolling out as early as Monday.

"The evidence that has been studied in great detail on this vaccine highly outweighs any of the issues we’ve seen," Stanford University Medical Center's Dr. Hayley Gans said, per AP.

The vaccine from Moderna will be the second one approved for emergency use authorization by the F.D.A. after the one from Pfizer.

Dec. 15: Hospitals in Southern California are in "crisis mode" as case numbers continue to be cause for serious concern. As Dr. Robert Levin explained to CBS News, "people are going to die that don’t need to die." Simply put, hospital space is becoming more and more limited in many regions across the country, which has health officials planning for the worst. For example, the state is distributing an estimated 5,000 body bags mostly to Los Angeles and San Diego. 

The FDA also announced it approved the sale of the first at-home, no-prescription-required COVID-19 test. Commissioner Stephen Hahn said in a statement that “a patient can buy it, swab their nose, run the test and find out their results in as little as 20 minutes.” The roughly $30 tests come from Australia’s Ellume, which will produce 3 million kits in January and increase its output for the first half of 2021. Sales will take place at pharmacies and online.

Dec. 14: The first clinically authorized vaccination (aside from trials) was given to Queens nurse Sandra Lindsay. "I feel like healing is coming," Lindsay told the New York Times. "I hope this marks the beginning of the end of a very painful time in our history."

Dec. 13: The first U.S. shipment of vaccines left Pfizer's facility in Michigan.

Dec. 11: The Pfizer x BioNTech vaccine has been given emergency use authorization, marking a historic moment for the pandemic era.

"The tireless work to develop a new vaccine to prevent this novel, serious, and life-threatening disease in an expedited timeframe after its emergence is a true testament to scientific innovation and public-private collaboration worldwide," FDA Commissioner Stephen M. Hahn said.

Dec. 9: Canada's health regulator has approved Pfizer’s vaccine, notably coming in ahead of the U.S. 

"The geek in me is amazed," Health Canada's chief medical adviser, Dr. Supriya Sharma, said. "No one would have thought, even when we looked back at the first discovery of the virus, that less than a year later we would be authorizing and distributing a vaccine."

Dec. 8: Los Angeles County reported 9,243 new cases on Wednesday, marking its second highest daily total since the pandemic began. 

According to the New York Times, the U.S recorded its most coronavirus-related deaths spanning a week. The country's seven-day average sits at 2,249 deaths, surpassing the previous mark of 2,232, which was set on April 17.

Also on Wednesday, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf announced that he tested positive for COVID-19.

Dec. 8: On Friday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo indefinitely suspended indoor dining in NYC as hospitalization and positivity rates continue to rise. The ban will begin on Monday. 

Dec. 3: California Gov. Gavin Newsom has imposed a regional stay-at-home order in an effort to curb the spread of coronavirus.

The Democratic lawmaker announced the move Thursday, explaining the state would be split into five different regions: the Bay Area, Greater Sacramento, Northern California, San Joaquin Valley, and Southern California. Once a region's intensive care unit capacity drops below 15 percent, a three-week stay-at-home order will go into effect. 

According to ABC News 7, the stay-at-home order will also force bars, salons, barbershops, and "other personal care services" to cease operations throughout the three weeks.  Restaurants must halt indoor and outdoor dining, but may offer takeout and delivery services. Retail stores will be allowed to stay open, but at 20 percent capacity.

Dec. 2: California reported a record 28,000 cases. This marks the most any state has counted in a single day during the entire pandemic.

As the region continues to deal with rising numbers, all residents of Los Angeles were also told to remain in their homes while following the safer-at-home order. On Dec. 2, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti warned of a "devastating tipping point" and shared a number of detailed health recommendations. 

Also on Wednesday, Johns Hopkins University reported 2,804 new deaths nationwide, surpassing the prior peak from April 15. The total number of cases, meanwhile, topped 14 million.

The use of vaccination cards was also detailed on Wednesday. Dr. Kelly Moore, associate director of the Immunization Action Coalition, told CNN that "everyone will be issued a written card that they can put in their wallet that will tell them what they had and when their next dose is due."

On the international stage, there was some good news on Dec. 2 of the vaccine variety. Pfizer and BioNTech announced that the Medicines & Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) in the U.K. had granted a temporary authorization for emergency use of its vaccine.

Dec. 1: Florida became the third state in the U.S. to surpass one million confirmed cases of COVID-19. Texas and California previously hit this horrific milestone.

Records were also confirmed to have been broken on this day at the national level, with CBS News pointing out that the U.S. total number of new cases in November was higher than the total number of cases reported by nearly every other country all year.

Nov. 30: Moderna requested emergency clearance in the U.S. and Europe to start distributing its COVID-19 vaccine.

Nov. 29: Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, warned of the likelihood of Americans having to get through “surge upon surge” in the coming weeks and months. This message was of particular note due to its timing on a holiday weekend, during which millions of Americans apparently decided to say "f*ck my health and the health of those around me" by insisting upon Thanksgiving travel.

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Nov. 27: AstraZeneca, just days removed from the good vaccine news, was reported to have been targeted by hackers. A Reuters report describes the culprits as suspected North Korean hackers who disguised themselves as recruiters on LinkedIn and WhatsApp. When sending what recipients believed were job descriptions, the hackers allegedly also included malicious code.

On the same day the attempted AstraZeneca hackings were reported, the U.S. topped 13 million COVID-19 cases.

Nov. 23: AstraZeneca and Oxford University publicly released data on a "highly effective" COVID-19 vaccine. One dosing regimen, as detailed in an extensive press release, showed an efficacy rate of 90 percent when the vaccine—known as AZD1222—was given as a half dose followed at least one month later by a full dose. The AstraZeneca x Oxford vaccine is of particular interest due to its potential as a cheaper and easier-to-distribute alternative to other vaccine candidates.

Nov. 21: The total number of cases in the U.S. surpassed 12 million on this day.

Nov. 19: The CDC, as expected, came forward with a very strong recommendation against the usual holiday travel for the Thanksgiving season. Going about business as usual, experts cautioned, would (though this should be obvious) put yourself and your loved ones at risk of becoming one of the millions of Americans who have tested positive since the pandemic began.

Nov. 17: The FDA made the widely lauded decision to issue an emergency use authorization (EUA) for the first COVID-19 diagnostic test that allows people to see their status from home. Available by prescription, the self-collection kit is touted as being able to have results for the user within 30 minutes.

Nov. 16: Joe Biden, who won the 2020 presidential election, publicly took issue with the outgoing failed steak salesman's reluctance to coordinate with his transition team. During a speech in Delaware, Biden made clear the human cost of stalling communications between the two teams during a pandemic.

"More people may die if we don’t coordinate," Biden said when calling for immediate coordination.

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