Covid-19: A Historical Background – How Did We Get Here?

By: Andrew Koh

           The Covid-19 pandemic has proven to be an arduous global dilemma that has severely challenged our current understanding of domestic and international healthcare. The magnitude of the pandemic has altered and impacted every facet of our lives from politics, education, societal behaviors, economics, and public policy. The following etches a timeline summarizing the progression of key events leading to the Covid-19 pandemic being one of the most significant crises of the early 21st century.

            On December 31st, 2019, “the World Health Organization received a statement by the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission confirming multiple cases of a ‘viral pneumonia’ in Wuhan, China” (World Health Organization, 2020). After identifying the outbreak was caused by a novel coronavirus days later, “Chinese media reported the first death caused by coronavirus on January 11th, 2020” (World Health Organization, 2020).

            In response to the alarming amount and speed of confirmed cases from the novel coronavirus and with the World Health Organization declaring the outbreak a global health emergency, “the White House announced that it would ban entry for most foreign nationals who had traveled to China within the last 14 days on January 31st” (Muccari et al., 2020). News regarding the novel coronavirus began spiraling daily in early February adding to growing international concerns over the outbreak. On February 11th, 2020, “the World Health Organization announced that the disease caused by the novel coronavirus would be officially named Covid-19” (World Health Organization, 2020). As time progressed, more and more cases were being confirmed internationally as Covid-19 continued spread across the world with greater uncertainty and fear.

            On March 6th, “President Donald Trump would sign an $8.3 billion spending package supported by Congress to combat the outbreak as the number of cases reached 100,000” (Muccari et al., 2020). This act of public policy “would provide $7.8 billion to fight Covid-19 and include a mandatory funding authorization for $500 million over 10 years to be used toward a remote health care program” (Shabad, 2020).

            On March 11th, “the World Health Organization declared that Covid-19 could be characterized as a pandemic due to their deep concern for the alarming levels of spread and severity, as well as the alarming levels of inaction” (World Health Organization, 2020). In response to the WHO’s assessment, the number of confirmed cases in the U.S. surpassing 1,000, and the stock market plummeting, “President Donald Trump announced a restriction on many foreign travelers from 26 countries in Europe” (Mucarri et al., 2020).

            As the days and weeks progressed, more aspects of normalcy began changing due to the pandemic as many states across the U.S. announced school closures, stay-at-home protocols, social distancing, and the cancellation of many entertainment and sporting events. By March 23rd, Johns Hopkins University stated that global infections from Covid-19 were on track to exceed 350,000 confirmed cases (Mucarri et al., 2020).

            After the World Health Organization warned the United States that it could be the epicenter of the pandemic, “U.S. Covid-19 cases surpassed China as it was reported at least 82,474, with more than 1,100 deaths, while China reported 81,961 cases and more than 3,000 deaths on March 26th” (Mucarri et al., 2020).

            With workers, small businesses, and the overall U.S. economy being devastated by the Covid-19 pandemic, “President Donald Trump signed on March 27th, a $2 trillion stimulus bill, putting in motion desperately needed financial relief for millions of Americans set back by the pandemic” (Shabad & Edelman, 2020). While this stimulus package, known as the CARES Act, received bipartisan support and provided Americans with one-time cash payments and billions of dollars in aid for large businesses and state and local governments, many Americans were struggling as the “U.S. Department of Labor announced a cumulative record of over 16 million American seeking unemployment benefits over a three-week period.” (Mucarri et al., 2020).

            On April 14th, as there were over 600,000 confirmed cases and 26,000 deaths in the U.S. from Covid-19, “President Donald Trump announced that he would halt funding to the World Health Organization after accusing the agency of ‘severely mismanaging and covering up’ the Covid-19 crisis. The threats to cut funding came after the organization criticized his response to the epidemic” (Mucarri et al., 2020).

            Days later, President Trump “suggested the use of an injection of disinfectant as well as touting the drug, hydroxychloroquine to cure the coronavirus prompting the FDA and U.S. Surgeon General to make cautionary statements to the public” (Mucarri et al., 2020).

            On August 27th, “the CDC notified U.S. public health officials to prepare to distribute a potential Covid-19 vaccine as soon as late October, providing planning scenarios to help states prepare and advise on who should get vaccinated first — healthcare professionals, essential workers, national security “populations” and long-term care facility residents and staff” (CNN, 2020).

           Ultimately, the lack of preparation to assist the healthcare sector for a crisis of this magnitude has been marred by the Trump administration’s inability to encourage the public to follow CDC and WHO guidelines including social distancing, stay-at-home protocols, and wearing protective masks to slow down transmission of the virus and give the healthcare sector the opportunity to not be overwhelmed in providing life-saving treatment to patients during this pandemic.

            The timeline and background of the Covid-19 pandemic is currently unfolding as it highlights the severity of this international crisis with “over 8.2 million cases and 220,000 deaths in the U.S. and over 40.2 million cases and 1.1 million deaths worldwide” (The New York Times, 2020). It also highlights the ineptitude and partisan inaction of U.S. public officials including “President Trump who on October 2nd tested positive for Covid-19 and was hospitalized following a White House super-spreader event celebrating the Supreme Court nomination of Amy Coney Barrett on September 26th “(Mathers, 2020). The politicization of the U.S. Covid-19 response has also been fueled by the upcoming General Election with both sides of the political spectrum refusing to make effective and timely policy changes to help struggling Americans including the difficult negotiations of a second Covid-19 stimulus package before November 3rd (CBS New York, 2020).


CBS New York. (2020, October 19). Stimulus Package Update: Is Time Running Out On A  Possible Second Stimulus Check? Retrieved October 20, 2020, from       negotiations-check-election/

CNN. (2020, October 13). Coronavirus Outbreak Timeline Fast Facts. Retrieved October 20, 2020, from

Mathers, M. (2020, October 19). Fauci ‘absolutely not’ surprised Trump got coronavirus after ‘superspreader’ event. Retrieved October 20, 2020, from      coronavirus-white-house-rose-garden-covid-b1152082.html

Muccari, R., Chow, D., &; Murphy, J. (2020, July 08). Coronavirus timeline: Tracking the critical moments of COVID-19. Retrieved October 20, 2020, from  moments-covid-19-n1154341

The New York Times. (2020, January 28). Covid World Map: Tracking the Global Outbreak. Retrieved October 19, 2020, from

Shabad, R. (2020, March 05). Senate passes $8.3 billion emergency bill to combat coronavirus.   Retrieved October 20, 2020, from

Shabad, R., &; Edelman, A. (2020, March 27). Trump signs $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill. Retrieved October 20, 2020, from

World Health Organization. (2020). Timeline: WHO’s COVID-19 response. Retrieved October 19, 2020, from

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