The Journal Gazette
Sunday, March 14, 2021 1:00 am

Timeline December 2019 to February 2020

Dec. 31, 2019: (W) The World Health Organization’s Country Office in the People’s Republic of China picks up a media statement by the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission from their website on cases of “viral pneumonia” in Wuhan. The cases occur between Dec. 12 and 29, according to Wuhan Municipal Health. WHO’s Epidemic Intelligence from Open Sources platform also picks up a media report about the same cluster of cases of “pneumonia of unknown cause,” in Wuhan. Several health authorities from around the world contact WHO seeking information.

Jan. 1, 2020: (W) WHO requests information on the reported cluster of atypical pneumonia cases in Wuhan from Chinese authorities and activates its Incident Management Support Team (IMST) as part of its emergency response to coordinate activities and responses for public health emergencies. Chinese health authorities close the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market after it is discovered that wild animals sold there may be the source of the virus.

Jan. 2: (W) A WHO representative offers the National Health Commission support and again requests more information. WHO also informs Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network (GOARN) partners including major public health agencies, laboratories, sister U.N. agencies, international organizations and NGOs about the cluster of pneumonia cases.

Jan. 3: (W) Chinese officials offer the first information on the cluster of cases.

Jan. 4: (W) WHO tweets about a cluster of pneumonia cases with no deaths in Wuhan and that investigations to identify the cause are underway.

Jan. 5: (W) WHO shares detailed information about a cluster of cases of pneumonia of unknown cause through the IHR (2005) Event Information System. The notice advises member states to take precautions to reduce the risk of acute respiratory infections. WHO also issues its first Disease Outbreak News report containing information about the number of cases and their clinical status; details about the Wuhan national authority’s response measures; and WHO’s risk assessment and advice on public health measures.

Jan. 9: (W) WHO reports Chinese authorities have determined the outbreak is caused by the novel coronavirus.

Jan. 10: (W) WHO publishes a comprehensive package of guidance documents for countries, covering topics related to the management of an outbreak of a new disease.

Jan. 11: (W) WHO receives the genetic sequences for the novel coronavirus. Chinese media report the first death from the novel coronavirus.

Jan. 13: (W) WHO publishes first protocol for an RT-PCR assay by a partner laboratory to diagnose the novel coronavirus. Thailand reports an imported case of lab-confirmed novel coronavirus from Wuhan, the first recorded case outside of China.

Jan. 14: (W) WHO holds a press briefing explaining explains the potential for human-to-human transmission, while Chinese authorities found no clear evidence of such transmission. WHO states additional investigation is needed.

Jan. 15: (W) Japan reports its first confirmed case in a person who traveled to Wuhan.

Jan. 16: (W) The Pan American Health Organization/WHO Regional Office for the Americas (PAHO/AMRO) issues its first epidemiological alert on the novel coronavirus.

Jan. 17: (US) Chinese health officials confirm that a second person has died in China. The United States responds to the outbreak by implementing screenings for symptoms at airports in San Francisco, New York and Los Angeles.

Jan. 19: (W) WHO Western Pacific Regional Office tweets there is evidence of limited human-to-human transmission.

Jan. 20: (W) WHO publishes guidance on home care for patients with suspected infection. WHO officials conduct the first mission to Wuhan and meet with public health officials to learn about the response to the cluster of cases of novel coronavirus.

Jan. 20: (US) The National Institutes of Health announces that it is working on a vaccine against the novel coronavirus.

Jan. 21: (US) A Washington state resident becomes the first person in the United States with a confirmed case of the coronavirus, having returned from Wuhan on Jan. 15.

Jan. 22: (W) The WHO director-general convenes an IHR Emergency Committee (EC) regarding the outbreak of novel coronavirus. The committee is composed of 15 independent experts from around the world charged with advising the director-general as to whether the outbreak constituted a public health emergency of international concern. The panel was unable to reach a conclusion because of limited information and agrees to reconvene in 10 days.

Jan. 24: (W) France announces three cases of novel coronavirus, all of whom had traveled from Wuhan.

Jan. 27-28: (W) A senior WHO delegation led by the director-general arrives in Beijing to meet Chinese leaders, learn more about the response, and offer technical assistance. The director-general meets with President Xi Jinping to discuss continued collaboration on containment measures in Wuhan, public health measures in other cities and provinces, conducting further studies on the severity and transmissibility of the virus, continuing to share data and a request for China to share biological material with WHO. They agree an international team of leading scientists should travel to China to better understand the context, the overall response and exchange information and experience.

Jan. 29: (W) The United Arab Emirates reports the first cases in the WHO Eastern Mediterranean Region. WHO publishes advice on the use of masks in the community, during home care and in health care settings.

Jan. 29: (US) The White House announces the formation of a new task force that will help monitor and contain the spread of the virus and ensure Americans have accurate and up-to-date health and travel information.

Jan. 29: (AC) Allen County Health Commissioner Deborah McMahan tells local board of health that chances are slim that the new strain of coronavirus that put millions into quarantine in China will become an epidemic in Fort Wayne anytime soon. But it may be just a matter of time before health providers here have to treat someone exposed to the virus.

Jan. 30: (W) The director-general declares the novel coronavirus outbreak a public health emergency of international concern, WHO’s highest level of alarm. At that time there were 98 cases and no deaths in 18 countries outside China. Four countries had evidence (eight cases) of human-to-human transmission outside China (Germany, Japan, the United States and Vietnam).

Jan. 30: (US) The United States reports its first confirmed case of person-to-person transmission of the coronavirus. The State Department also banned travel to China by U.S. residents.

Jan. 31: (US) The Trump administration announces it will deny entry to foreign nationals who have traveled in China in the last 14 days.

Jan. 31: (IN) Taylor University officials canceled what was to have been the inaugural semester of a business-related program in Xian, China. According to Charles Brainer, dean of international programs, the move came in response to the Wuhan coronavirus and travel warnings issued by the U.S. government.

Jan. 31: (AC) Allen County Health Department joins U.S. and international authorities in warning about the novel coronavirus. People traveling internationally are urged to consult their physician or the health department for recommendations.

Feb. 2: (W) First dispatch of RT-PCR lab diagnostic kits shipped to WHO Regional Offices.

Feb. 3: (US) President Donald Trump’s administration declares the coronavirus outbreak a public emergency. 

Feb. 4: (W) WHO holds a technical briefing on the novel coronavirus. The director-general urges member states to prepare themselves by taking action now, stating the 99% of cases are in China and only 176 cases in the rest of the world. WHO brings up the question of asymptomatic spread, but more studies are needed on secondary transmission. The Japanese Health Ministry announces that 10 people aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship moored in Yokohama Bay are confirmed to have the coronavirus.

Feb. 6: (US) First COVID-19 death in the United States: A person in California’s Santa Clara County dies of the coronavirus, but the link is not confirmed until April 21.

Feb. 7: (W) Li Wenliang, a Wuhan doctor who was targeted by police for trying to sound the alarm on a “SARS-like” virus in December, dies of the coronavirus.

Feb. 10: (W) The COVID-19 death toll surpasses that of the SARS outbreak from 17 years ago.

Feb. 11: (W) WHO announ­ces that the disease caused by the novel coronavirus will be named COVID-19.

Feb. 14: (W) Based on lessons learned from the H1N1 and Ebola outbreaks, WHO finalizes guidelines for organizers of mass gatherings in light of COVID-19.

Feb. 17: (US) A second person in California’s Santa Clara County dies of coronavirus, but the link is not confirmed until April 21.

Feb. 24: (W) Team leaders of the WHO-China Joint Mission on COVID-19 report that much of the global community is not ready to implement measures to contain the virus. The WHO group also set forth recommendations including case detection and isolation, contact tracing, quarantines and community engagement.

Feb. 25: (W) Algeria confirms a second case in Africa, after an earlier case in Egypt on Feb. 14.

Feb. 25: (US) The NIH announces that a clinical trial to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of the antiviral drug remdesivir in adults diagnosed with coronavirus has started at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha.

Feb. 26: (US) CDC officials say a California patient being treated for novel coronavirus is the first US case of unknown origin. The patient, who didn’t have any relevant travel history nor exposure to another known patient, is the first possible U.S. case of “community spread.” Trump also places Vice President Mike Pence in charge of the government’s response to the virus.

Feb. 27: (W) WHO publishes guidance on the rational use of personal protective equipment, in view of global shortages.

Feb. 29: (US) A patient dies of the coronavirus in Washington state. For almost two months, this is considered the first death due to the virus in the U.S., until autopsy results announced April 21 reveal two earlier deaths in California.



W – World event

US – United States event

IN – State event

NI - Northeast Indiana event

AC – Allen County event

FW – City event

Sources: World Health Organization,, CDC, IN.Gov, Indiana Department of Health, Allen County Department of Health

– Compiled by Jessica Garvin, Lisa Green, Justin Cohn of The Journal Gazette


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