Coronavirus timeline shows politicians', media's changing rhetoric on risk of pandemic


Jan. 4:  The head of the University of Hong Kong’s Centre for Infection  warns  that “the city should implement the strictest possible monitoring system for a mystery new viral pneumonia that has infected dozens of people on the mainland ,  as it is highly possible that the illness is spreading from human to human."

Jan. 6:   The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)  issues  a "level 1 travel watch — the lowest of its three levels — for China’s outbreak," according to the University of Minnesota's Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy. The CDC said the "cause and the transmission mode aren't yet known, and it advised travelers to Wuhan to avoid living or dead animals, animal markets, and contact with sick people." The CDC also offered to send a team to China, but China  declined.

Jan. 8:  The World Health Organization (WHO)  declares , “Preliminary identification of a novel virus in a short period of time is a notable achievement and demonstrates China’s increased capacity to manage new outbreaks."

Jan. 11 : China  reports  its first coronavirus death.

Jan. 14:  The WHO  announces , “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.” Meanwhile, according to  The Associated Press , internal Chinese documents show that government officials acknowledged likely human-to-human transmission of coronavirus, and said they were following orders from the president of China.

Jan. 15:  Trump and China  sign "phase one" of a trade deal  to rein in a historic and damaging trade war.

Jan. 17:  The CDC and the Department of Homeland Security  announce  that travelers into the U.S. from Wuhan will undergo new screening at several major airports.

Jan. 19 : The WHO hedges somewhat: “Not enough is known to draw definitive conclusions about how it is transmitted, the clinical features of the disease, the extent to which it has spread, or its source, which remains unknown."

Jan. 22:  Trump responds to whether he's concerned about a possible pandemic, “No. Not at all. And we have it totally under control. It’s  one person  coming in from China, and we have it under control. It’s going to be just fine." Trump was referring to a resident from Snohomish County, Wash., who came back from China on Jan. 15 and was diagnosed with the coronavirus.

Jan. 23:  Vox  publishes an article  stating that travel bans to fight viruses "don't work." The article initially referred to the "Wuhan coronavirus," before being edited weeks later. The article's URL remains unchanged.

Jan. 24:  Trump tweets in praise of China’s “ transparency ." (On  April 1 , the Biden campaign mocked the president for the tweet, and claimed Biden "publicly" warned Trump not to trust China.)

Jan. 27:  The Biden campaign, including its  top coronavirus adviser  Ron Klain,  praise China  for being “transparent” and “candid." Speaking to Axios, Klain asserts: "I think what you'd have to say about China is, it's been more transparent and more candid than it has been during past outbreaks, though still there's problems with transparency and candor." Even as he says there were "many" areas in which China hasn't been transparent, Klain says China had helpfully released a "sequence of the virus." Klain says there wasn't "any reason" for anyone to postpone essential travel to anywhere except the Wuhan area.

Jan. 28 : Three days before Trump closes off most travel from China, Klain says he  opposes  that measure.

Jan. 30:  CNN publishes a  piece  by Brandon Tensley entitled, "Coronavirus task force another example of Trump administration's lack of diversity." Tensley, who claims to cover the "intersection of culture and politics," was unable to offer medical analysis in the article.

The WHO  declares  a global health emergency, and the State Department issues advisories against traveling to China.

an. 31:  Trump  issues  the "Proclamation on Suspension of Entry as Immigrants and Nonimmigrants of Persons who Pose a Risk of Transmitting 2019 Novel Coronavirus." Later in the day, Biden campaigns in Iowa and tells the crowd that Americans “need to have a president who they can trust what he says about it, that he is going to act rationally about it. ... This is no time for Donald Trump’s record of hysteria and xenophobia – hysterical xenophobia – and fearmongering to lead the way instead of science.”

Also in the wake of the ban on Jan. 31:

  • An  article  in The New York Times quotes epidemiologist Dr. Michael Osterholm as saying that Trump's decision to restrict travel from China was "more of an emotional or political reaction."
  • The Washington Post runs a  story  quoting a Chinese official asking for "empathy" and slamming the White House for acting "in disregard of WHO recommendation against travel restrictions."
  • Vox  tweets : "Is this going to be a deadly pandemic? No." The tweet was deleted weeks later.
  • Death counts indicated that 213 people had died and nearly 10,000 had been infected.


Feb. 2:  "There's a virus that has infected 15 million Americans across the country and killed more than 8,200 people this season alone," CNN  tweets . "It's not a new pandemic — it's influenza."

Meanwhile, New York City Health Commissioner Oxiris Barbot   tweets : “As we gear up to celebrate the #LunarNewYear in NYC, I want to assure New Yorkers that there is no reason for anyone to change their holiday plans, avoid the subway, or certain parts of the city because of #coronavirus."

Feb. 5:  Over 5,000 passengers on two cruise ships in Asia  are ordered  into  quarantine  as the worldwide death toll from the  coronavirus  reaches 490.

Feb. 7 : Barbot strikes again, assuring residents, "We’re telling New Yorkers, go about your lives, take the subway, go out, enjoy life." City lawmakers have  called  for Barbot to be fired because of the comments.

Feb. 9:  Mark Levine, the chair of New York City Council health committee and a Democrat, tweets: "In powerful show of defiance of  #coronavirus  scare, huge crowds gathering in NYC's Chinatown for ceremony ahead of annual  #LunarNewYear  parade. Chants of 'be strong Wuhan!' If you are staying away, you are missing out!"
Feb. 11:  Klain, the Biden adviser,  remarks  that the evidence "suggests" the coronavirus won't be a "serious pandemic."

Feb. 13:  "There are ZERO confirmed cases of coronavirus in New York City, and hundreds of Chinese restaurants that need your business!" the New York City mayor's office  tweets . "There is nothing to fear. Stop by any Chinatown for lunch or dinner!"

Feb 14:  France announces Europe's first coronavirus death.

Feb. 18:  In  remarks  at Joint Base Andrews, Trump states: "I think President Xi is working very hard.  As you know, I spoke with him recently.  He’s working really hard.  It’s a tough problem.  I think he’s going to do — look, I’ve seen them build hospitals in a short period of time.  I really believe he wants to get that done, and he wants to get it done fast.  Yes, I think he’s doing it very professionally. We’re also working with him and helping him, as of the last few days, as you know." Pressed on whether he trusted China's coronavirus data, Trump responds, "Look, I know this: President Xi loves the people of China, he loves his country, and he’s doing a very good job with a very, very tough situation."

Feb. 19 : Iran reports two coronavirus cases — the country's first. Hundreds of passengers  leave the Diamond Princess  for the first time since the quarantine.

Feb. 23 : Coronavirus infections  surge in Italy and South Korea ; authorities in Italy begin locking down towns.

Feb. 24:  “It’s exciting to be here, especially at this time, to be able to be unified with our community,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., tells reporters as she visits  San Francisco's Chinatown . “We want to be vigilant about what is out there in other places. We want to be careful about how we deal with it, but we do want to say to people ‘Come to Chinatown, here we are — we're, again, careful, safe — and come join us.'”

Also on Feb. 24, the  White House   submits a request to Congress  for $2.5 billion in supplemental spending to help combat the  coronavirus  outbreak. The request includes $1.25 billion in new money, with the rest coming from unspent funds.

Feb. 29:  The  first coronavirus death in the U.S . is confirmed in Washington state.


Mar. 4:  Barbot, the top New York City health official, declares, “There’s no indication that being in a car, being in the subways with someone who’s potentially sick is a risk factor."

Mar. 9:  At a  Fox News town hall,  Bernie Sanders says he would not close the border, even if it were necessary to halt the spread of coronavirus. He then attacked Trump's "xenophobia."

Mar. 11:  Trump  blocks most travel from continental Europe.

Mar. 13:  "Since I’m encouraging New Yorkers to go on with your lives + get out on the town despite Coronavirus, I thought I would offer some suggestions," New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio  tweets . "Here’s the first: thru Thurs 3/5 go see 'The Traitor'  @FilmLinc . If 'The Wire' was a true story + set in Italy, it would be this film."

Meanwhile, Trump  declares a national emergency , authorizing $50 billion in federal funds to go to the states.

Mar. 17 : France imposes a nationwide lockdown. European Union leaders agree to  mostly seal off the bloc  for 30 days.

Mar. 23 : Britain imposes a  nationwide lockdown.

Mar. 24 : India imposes a  nationwide lockdown.

Mar. 27:  A senior WHO official cuts off an interview after a reporter implies Taiwan, which is not a WHO member state, is independent of China. The official, Canadian doctor Bruce Aylward,  initially pretended  not to hear the question before terminating the Skype call with the reporter.

Trump  signs a $2 trillion stimulus bill  into law.

Mar. 30:  Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C. issue  stay-at-home orders , joining other states. In all, approximately 265 million Americans are now under indefinite lockdown.


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