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One year ago today, the U.S. announced it found its first case of the coronavirus, the mysterious pneumonia-like illness that experts believe sprang from an animal market in Wuhan, China just a couple months prior.
The disease, later coined COVID-19, would soon change societies across the globe in ways that will leave permanent stains of pain and defeat, as well as of perseverance and triumph.
More than 24.3 million Americans have been infected with the virus ever since, the most in any country in the world, with more than 403,000 of them dead, missing from dinner tables, classrooms, nursing homes and medical facilities — among other settings that now carry an unfillable void.
However, less than 365 days after the coronavirus landed in America, scientists were able to develop a vaccine in unprecedented speed, sparking what health experts consider the beginning of the pandemic’s end.
Here’s a timeline of the milestones that followed last year’s Jan. 21 announcement that’s been making scientific, economic and political history ever since:
A 35-year-old man who had returned from Wuhan, China on Jan. 15, 2020, was later confirmed to have SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, after getting tested at a medical facility in the state of Washington.
Scientists believed at the time that the coronavirus was primarily spreading from animal-to-person, but there was growing evidence that it could spread between people.
A World Health Organization committee officially declared “severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2)” as the name of the new coronavirus on Feb. 11, 2020. The name was chosen because the virus is genetically related to the coronavirus responsible for the SARS outbreak of 2003.
The committee also named the disease the coronavirus causes, COVID-19. The naming came at a time when political leaders and citizens alike were under fire for calling it the offensive “China virus,” among other titles that blamed China for the pandemic and forced many Asian Americans to face racism.
Washington public health officials declared a state of emergency after announcing that a man in his 50s with no travel or contact history with a COVID-19 case died from the coronavirus in the state. It was the first reported death in the U.S. from the disease.
Later studies showed there were two people who had died earlier from COVID-19 on Feb. 6 and Feb. 17, according to The New York Times.
Former President Donald Trump declared the coronavirus pandemic a national emergency on March 13.
The move unleashed billions of dollars in federal aid for state and local governments.
Gov. Gavin Newsom announced March 19 that all Californians needed to stay home and avoid nonessential social contact to slow the transmission of COVID-19 — the first state in the country to make such a move.
The decision set the stage for other states to issue similar orders shortly after.
The coronavirus had killed more than 100,000 Americans by May 27, just four months after the first case was found in the nation.
At the time, there were more than 1.6 million confirmed COVID-19 cases in the U.S..
The WHO acknowledged July 9 that the coronavirus may be spreading via aerosolized droplets that shoot out of infected people’s coughs and sneezes and remain infectious when suspended in air over long distances and time.
Earlier public health messaging on preventive measures had focused on direct contact with a sick person or contact with surfaces that may have coronavirus particles sprawled on them.
A 25-year-old Nevada man tested positive for the coronavirus six weeks after he originally contracted the disease, scientists reported in an Oct. 12 study, igniting fears that the thousands of those who had recovered may be able to get sick again. A lab officially confirmed the case on Aug. 28.
A handful of other cases of reinfection across the globe have occurred since then.
Sept. 28 — Global coronavirus deaths reach 1 million
COVID-19 had killed over 1 million people worldwide by Sept. 28 since it was first documented in December 2019 in China, added according to U.S. News.
The highest death tolls at the time were from the U.S., Brazil and India, together making up more than 40% of the global count. Today, the same three countries remain the hardest hit by the pandemic.
A tweet posted by the former president himself revealed that Trump and former first lady Melania Trump tested positive for COVID-19 on Oct. 2, creating a political earthquake a month out from Election Day.
Trump was admitted to the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center shortly after his announcement where he began several experimental treatments.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for emergency use on Dec. 11 after an agency committee recommended it the day before.
It was the first COVID-19 vaccine to be recommended for emergency use in the U.S. for people 16 years of age and older. Clinical trials showed the vaccine has a 95% efficacy rate.
A critical care nurse in New York was the first in the U.S. to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, just three days after the Pfizer shot was given emergency-use authorization.
“I feel hopeful today, relieved. I feel like healing is coming,” the nurse said, according to U.S. News.
An FDA advisory committee on Dec. 18 recommended the Moderna coronavirus vaccine for emergency-use authorization after reviewing and discussing the latest clinical trial data, deciding that the benefits outweigh the risks.
It was the second COVID-19 vaccine to be recommended for emergency-use authorization in the U.S. The shot has an efficacy rate of 94%.
Colorado officials confirmed Dec. 29 the first U.S. case of a more contagious coronavirus strain that was first discovered in the United Kingdom. The man in his 20s had no prior travel history.
Since then, several states and countries have found cases of the new strain, with Florida carrying the most of any U.S. state as of Jan. 21.