For January and beyond I’m creating a timeline block for each day. While some days may not actually have a Coronavirus-related event, this offers me the option of adding in new information at a later date.
In reviewing this month’s events, I observe the general trend is slowly dawning awareness around the world that we’re facing a serious medical issue. Some countries were quicker to take preventive measures than others. For the United States, there’s considerable evidence President Trump and select members of Congress were receiving periodic intelligence briefings on the Coronavirus situation.
A congressional report (published May 13, 2020) details the coronavirus timeline of events of December 2019 to January 2020, including China, the , and US personnel.
Starting January 1 and continuing through March 11, 24 countries including South Korea and Germany ban exports of health care products in a bid to shore up their domestic supply, in anticipation of a potential pandemic.
A Chinese official of the Hubei Provincial Health Commission orders a medical lab to stop testing samples from Wuhan related to the new disease and destroy all existing samples.
Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, in Wuhan, China, suspected of being the disease source, is closed.
China’s , the nation’s top health authority, orders institutions not to publish any information related to the unknown disease, and orders labs to transfer any samples they had to designated testing institutions, or to destroy them.
Information concerning the virus appears in the President’s daily intelligence briefing for the first time. Officials said it wasn’t clear how closely President Trump read the briefing. No immediate action was taken.
The US issues a Level 1 travel notice for Wuhan, amid fears that the virus was spreading beyond its origin.
January 7 – 10
An expert team led by the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention makes a preliminary conclusion that the new disease is caused by a new strain of coronavirus.
The White House hosts a Chinese delegation for the signing ceremony of President Trump’s trade deal. More than 200 people are invited to the White House to witness the signing, including members of the Cabinet and American business leaders. None of the Chinese delegates who attend are tested for the virus, and none of the guests, crammed elbow-to-elbow, wear masks.
The Chinese Communist Party conclave in Wuhan ends.
The publishes a protocol from German researchers with the instructions necessary for any country to manufacture coronavirus tests. A top US health official states the has developed an early version of its own test and will not rely on any protocols published by the . No discussions occurred between and the about providing tests to the United States.
40,000 families in a Wuhan community gather to share their home-cooked food in a Lunar New Year banquet. The Wuhan mayor Zhou Xianwang explains that the annual event was given the greenlight despite the risks involved, as the decision was made “based on the judgment that human-to-human transmission was limited”.
Aware of widespread skepticism, Beijing moves to assure the international community and the public that it will not tolerate any cover up or withholding of sensitive information about the outbreak. The Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission – Beijing’s top political body responsible for law and order – publishes a social media commentary telling Communist Party officials not to forget the painful lessons of SARS, and to ensure timely reporting of the current 2019-nCoV situation.
The confirms the first case of 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) in the United States in the state of Washington. The acknowledges there are growing indications that limited person-to-person spread is happening.
In an interview from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, President Trump states he trusts the information coming out of China on the coronavirus. “We have it totally under control,” he said of the virus spread in the U.S. “It’s one person coming in from China. We have it under control. It’s going to be just fine.”
publishes an editorial asking three key questions about the novel coronavirus outbreak. He ends his editorial with “The new virus is likely to continue spreading and be recognized more, and in more countries, in the coming days and weeks.
With celebrations approaching, approximately 5 million people leave the city before it is locked down, without being screened for the illness.
Later this day, the city of Ezhou is locked down. Beijing Culture and Tourism Bureau cancels plans for Chinese New Year festivities and closes the Forbidden City.
The Situational Report Three (SITREP 3) assesses the risk of 2019-nCoV to be very high in China, high at the regional level and high at the
meets with Mr. and to press “for urgent access to funding, personnel and clinical specimens, including viruses,” that would be necessary to develop treatments. But Mr. Azar and Dr. Kadlec “asserted that the United States would be able to contain the virus” through travel bans. Dr. Bright would be cut out of future department meetings related to Covid-19.
The Director-General announces his decision not to declare 2019-nCoV a public health emergency of international concern. He states “I am not declaring a public health emergency of international concern today. Make no mistake. This is an emergency in China, but it has not yet become a global health emergency. It may yet become one.”
President Trump Tweets: “China has been working very hard to contain the Coronavirus. The United States greatly appreciates their efforts and transparency. It will all work out well. In particular, on behalf of the American People, I want to thank President Xi!”
, who sits on the Senate Health Committee, begins stock trades worth over $18.7 million the same day her committee held a private all-members session on Covid-19, shortly before the general public was alerted to the severity of the Covid-19 crisis. Her husband, Jeffrey Sprecher, is chair of the New York Stock Exchange and chair and CEO of its holding company, Intercontinental Exchange.
Former VP Joe Biden publishes an OpEd discussing the possibility of an imminent pandemic, and strongly criticizes President Trumps abilities to prepare for one.
An elite group of U.S. infectious disease doctors and medical experts in the federal government and academic institutions around the nation, hosted by the chief medical officer at the Department of Homeland Security, Dr. Duane C. Caneva, initiated an email discussion thread nick-named “Red Dawn” (from the 1984 film of same name), discussing the Coronavirus. The first published email commented on the and seemingly behind the curve on pandemic preparations. One of the first emails includes this statement:
“Great Understatements in History:
Napoleon’s retreat from Moscow – “just a little stroll gone bad”
Pompeii – “a bit of a dust storm”
Hiroshima – “summer heat wave”
Wuhan- “bad flu season””
President Trump retweets a headline from , an outlet with a history of spreading false conspiracy theories: “Johnson & Johnson to create coronavirus vaccine.” There was no Coronavirus vaccine being created by Johnson & Johnson.
State of Emergency Declared: American Samoa, North Mariana Islands
During a speech, President Trump states of the Coronavirus; it would have “a very good ending for us […] that I can assure you. Hopefully it won’t be as bad as some people think it could be. […] We think we have it very well under control. We have very little problem in this country at this moment — five — and those people are all recuperating successfully […] But we’re working very closely with China and other countries, and we think it’s going to have a very good ending for us … that I can assure you.”
President Trump creates a new task force to lead the government’s response to the fast-spreading coronavirus. The twelve member group is led by and coordinated through the National Security Council. Key members of the group include National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien, , and
declares a public health emergency, which unlocks special funding and waivers selected medical rules.
The S&P 500 suffers its worst loss since October, falling 1.8 percent, as the spread of the virus — and the increasingly urgent efforts by companies and governments to contain it — fanned fears of an economic slowdown.
Meaning of icons used in the main timeline narrative. All icons are linked to the source reference:
Continuation of previous information, with a different reference
State-of-Emergency or Stay-At-Home Declared or Rescinded
Provides a video clip
Provides a pop-up information window
– Move your mouse over a boldened acronym, name, or term, used in this timeline for an
Link for a Download File
Trump Twitter Links Defunct
This timeline cites a number of Twitter Tweets including those of then-President Trump. On January 8, 2021, Twitter deactivated President Trump’s Twitter account. This caused the citation links to become inactive.
Timeline Source Data Files
I built this timeline from a set of working notes in spreadsheet format. At present, my working notes have 1247 news entries, in addition to other references that form my “Additional Reading” sidebar entries, and other source references. Not all these news items are published in this timeline, for various reasons. My notes are freely available under a Creative Commons license (BY SA) to any writer or researcher who finds this work useful.
January Timeline Events
Global Coronavirus Spread
First reported confirmed cases per country
Canada – the disease was confirmed when a man who had returned to Toronto from Wuhan, Hubei, China, tested positive.
Cambodia – confirmed in Sihanoukville on a 60-year-old Chinese man who arrived from Wuhan, Hubei with his family. Three other members of his family were placed under quarantine but they did not appear to have symptoms.
Germany – the first case was confirmed and contained near Munich, Bavaria, with a man from an automobile-parts manufacturer.
Sri Lanka – the first confirmed case of the virus was a 44-year-old Chinese woman from Hubei Province in China. She had arrived as a tourist with a group of travelers and screened at the Bandaranaike International Airport after reporting a high fever.
United Arab Emirates – a 73-year-old Chinese woman who came to the country on holiday with her family of four from Wuhan. The family arrived in the Emirates on 16 January and took one member to a doctor with flu-like symptoms on 23 January, where it was discovered that the family was infected.
Finland – a female Chinese tourist visiting Ivalo from Wuhan tested positive for the virus.
Philippines – a 38-year-old Chinese woman who was confined in the San Lazaro Hospital in Manila.
Italy – confirmed in a Chinese couple, originally from Wuhan, who had arrived in Italy on 23 January via Milan Malpensa Airport, traveled from the airport to Verona, then to Parma, arriving in Rome on 28 January.
India – its first case of COVID-19 was in Kerala, which rose to three cases by 3 February; all were students who had returned from Wuhan, China.
Spain – a German tourist tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 in La Gomera, Canary Islands.
Russia – two Chinese tourists in Tyumen, Siberia and Chita, Russian Far East tested positive for the virus, with both cases being contained.
United Kingdom – two members of a family of Chinese nationals staying in a hotel in York, one of whom studied at the University of York.
Sweden – a woman returning from Wuhan tested positive.
Commentary on Global Spread
Red Dawn Emails
The New York Times has published the entire “Red Dawn” email chain. The chain starts January 28 and continues through mid-March. Although some emails are heavily redacted, much of the material is readable and shows an incredible awareness among senior policy makers of the impending impact of the Coronavirus and increasing frustration with our government’s inaction.
I’ve made the email chain available as part of this timeline.
This article lays out in great detail a chronology of what Trump said—and what he knew—in January and February. This timeline focuses on his relations with China during the two crucial months that seeded the epidemic in the United States.
Trump’s Lies About China and the Coronavirus