Three months that changed the world

People wait in their cars at a virus test site in Victorville.
People wait in their cars at a coronavirus testing site at the San Bernardino County fairgrounds in Victorville on April 2.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)
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A timeline follows the course of the coronavirus outbreak and the events that were competing for our attention.

Dec. 31, 2019 — Chinese authorities report a cluster of pneumonia cases in people associated with a seafood and poultry market in Wuhan, in China’s Hubei province. They later identify the culprit: the novel coronavirus, 2019-nCoV.

Jan. 16, 2020 — The U.S. Senate begins its impeachment trial of President Trump. Floor speeches and arguments about calling witnesses would consume the nation’s attention for weeks.


Jan. 21 — Authorities announce the first U.S. confirmed case of the new coronavirus, in Washington state, where a man in his 30s developed symptoms after returning from a trip to Wuhan.

Jan. 26 — Former Lakers star Kobe Bryant is killed along with his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven others in a helicopter crash in Calabasas.

Jan. 30 — The World Health Organization declares the coronavirus to be an international “public health emergency.” The next day, the Trump administration restricts travel from China.

Feb. 3 — Iowa Democratic caucuses are held, followed by an uproar amid delays caused by the Iowa Democratic Party’s new app-based reporting.

In January, scientists, public health officials and journalists were warning that the coronavirus was set to explode out of China. Few listened.

April 12, 2020

Feb. 5 — The Senate acquits Trump on both impeachment charges. In a speech the next day, the president holds up a “Trump Acquitted” front page and says: “It’s the only good headline I’ve ever had in the Washington Post.”

Feb. 12 — The coronavirus death toll in China reaches 1,113, and the total number of confirmed cases rises to 44,653. At the time, there were a mere 393 cases outside of China, in 24 countries.

Feb. 14 — A Chinese tourist dies in Paris, marking the first known coronavirus death in Europe. Within two weeks, hundreds of Europeans would be infected, including 800 in Italy.

Feb. 28 — A patient near Seattle becomes the first person in the U.S. known to die of the coronavirus. The Trump administration announces new travel restrictions to South Korea and Italy.

March 4 — A 75-year-old man in Placer County becomes the first Californian known to die of the coronavirus after returning from a tour to Mexico on the Grand Princess cruise ship.

March 12 — Trump suspends travel from Europe; the NBA suspends its season; Gov. Gavin Newsom issues a directive banning large gatherings; L.A County announces its first coronavirus-related death; the WHO labels the outbreak a “pandemic.”


March 13 — Trump declares a national emergency. Three days later, seven counties in the San Francisco Bay Area issue stay-at-home orders, the nation’s strongest restrictions up to that point to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

March 26 — The United States surpasses all other countries in reported coronavirus cases, with at least 82,400 confirmed infections and more than 1,100 deaths.