COVID-19, the disease caused by a previously-unseen coronavirus first detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December, has rapidly spread across the globe. In the space of two months, it has made its way to every continent on Earth besides Antarctica. The World Health Organization has stopped short of calling this a pandemic but declared COVID-19 a public health emergency of international concern in late January.

The outbreak is not only negatively impacting health but has increased the volatility in the stock market and stoked fears of economic collapse. A number of high-profile tech giants, including Apple and Samsung, have been hit hard by supply chain issues in China and a slowdown in manufacturing and purchasing. Social media networks, like Facebook and Twitter, have wrestled with the spread of misinformation, taking steps to mitigate the rise of conspiracy theories and panic.

We’ve collated a full timeline for the virus below, in reverse-chronological order, and will continue to update this post with the latest developments each day.

Coronavirus timeline

March 3: Two deaths in the Seattle area in the week beginning Feb. 24 were attributed to COVID-19, state health officials revealed, according to The New York Times. The death toll in Washington state has now reached nine. Seven new cases were announced in the state, bringing the total number of infections to 21.

More SXSW cancellations 

After Facebook and Twitter pulled out of the SXSW festival in Texas on March 2, another social media platform has followed suit: The short-form video giant, TikTok.

In an emailed statement to CNET, the company said: “TikTok has decided not to participate in SXSW this year. While we think the risk is relatively low, we are erring on the side of caution as we prioritize safety for our team, creators, partners, artists, and brands. We are looking at a variety of alternative ways to bring parts of the previously scheduled experience to audiences in creative new forms.”

Tokyo 2020 in doubt
Japan Olympic minister Seiko Hashimoto suggested the 2020 Tokyo Olympics could be postponed.

“The IOC has the right to cancel the games only if they are not held during 2020,” Hashimoto reportedly told parliament. “This can be interpreted to mean the games can be postponed as long as they are held during the calendar year.”

The International Olympic Committee has doubled down on efforts to ensure the games go ahead as planned. The opening ceremony is scheduled for July 24. The Paralympics are scheduled to run from Aug. 25.

Google cancels I/O
The biggest event on search giant Google’s calendar each year is I/O, a developer conference held in the San Francisco Bay area. The I/O 2020 conference was scheduled to begin May 12, but Google has decided not to go ahead with the conference this year. Attendees will get a full refund, the company said in an email.

“Due to concerns around the coronavirus (COVID-19), and in accordance with health guidance from the CDC, WHO, and other health authorities, we have decided to cancel the physical Google I/O event at Shoreline Amphitheater,” Google said in a statement.

March 2: Confirmation of another four deaths in the US, all in Washington state.

German automaker BMW has placed 150 employees under at-home quarantine, according to a report by Automotive News Europe. Germany has reported around 160 cases of the disease.

SXSW sees two big names drop out
Twitter announced it would be pulling out of SXSW, citing coronavirus concerns. A blog post from Twitter on Sunday noted that the company is adjusting its travel policy. “On February 29, we informed our people and started notifying partners that we are suspending all non-critical business travel and events,” the blog post said.

Twitter’s attendance would have included a keynote address from CEO Jack Dorsey, as well as a larger presence from the company. In past years, Twitter has hosted speakers and events at its “Twitter House.”

Facebook announced it would be pulling out of SXSW due to fears over the COVID-19 outbreak.

Google Cloud, a platform that runs a suite of services on the search giant’s cloud, made its biggest event of the year, Google Cloud Next, digital-only. Scheduled for April in San Francisco, the event will now take place digitally, with “streamed keynotes, breakout sessions, interactive learning and digital “ask an expert” sessions with Google teams,” according to a blog post.

Coronavirus virus gets an official name: SARS-CoV-2
A paper, published in the journal Nature Microbiology by the Coronaviridae Study Group, officially designated the coronavirus that causes the disease, “SARS-CoV-2”. In a slightly confusing move, the authors suggest it should be considered distinct from the virus that caused the SARS outbreak in 2002 and 2003 — but the virus is so closely related to the coronavirus responsible for that outbreak.

The latest data shows over half of all patients have recovered, with a total of 45,605 COVID-19 cases resolved. It’s unclear whether or not recovered individuals can be infected a second time.

March 1: A second US death is confirmed in Washington state, in the same facility as the first fatality. New York state confirms its first positive case.

In France, the Louvre — the world’s largest and perhaps most famous art museum — closed as a secondary outbreak in Italy continues to spread through the northern regions. Around 9.6 million people visited the museum in 2019.

Feb. 29: The first fatality in the United States from the coronavirus was confirmed by the Washington State Department of Health. The man was in his 50s with an underlying health condition, state health officials said during a briefing.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said Saturday that the state is working to keep its citizens safe, and he declared a state of emergency.

US Surgeon General Jerome Adams tweeted advice for the public to stop buying face masks, suggesting they are not effective at preventing transmission. This echoed advice from the CDC which “does not recommend” healthy people wear a face mask to protect themselves from any respiratory disease.

Feb. 28: Game Developer’s Conference, a huge gathering of video game developers that takes place in San Francisco every year, was postponed. The event was scheduled to take place between March 16 and 20 but big-name developers like Epic, Facebook/Oculus, Blizzard, Microsoft and many more decided to pull out.

“After close consultation with our partners in the game development industry and community around the world, we’ve made the difficult decision to postpone the Game Developers Conference this March,” the organizers said in a statement. “Having spent the past year preparing for the show with our advisory boards, speakers, exhibitors, and event partners, we’re genuinely upset and disappointed not to be able to host you at this time.”

The GDC didn’t provide a new date for the event, saying only that “we fully intend to host a GDC event later in the summer.” 

Feb. 27: Coronavirus concerns prompted the cancellation of the Facebook F8 developer conference, the biggest event for the social media giant. The event was scheduled for May 5 and 6.

“This was a tough call to make — F8 is an incredibly important event for Facebook and it’s one of our favorite ways to celebrate all of you from around the world — but we need to prioritize the health and safety of our developer partners, employees and everyone who helps put F8 on,” Konstantinos Papamiltiadis, Facebook’s director of developer platforms and programs, said in a statement.

Instead of F8, Facebook said it’s planning to bring developers together through locally hosted events, videos, and live-streamed content.

Feb. 26: In a press conference, President Donald Trump reiterated the risk to Americans remains low. “The No. 1 priority from our standpoint is the health and safety of the American people,” he said. He noted that of the original 15 US cases, one remains in hospital and is “pretty sick,” with 14 others either fully recovered or in recovery. He also announced that Vice President Mike Pence will coordinate the response to the virus.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed local transmission of the virus had occurred in the US. This means the virus was able to spread from person-to-person in the US, rather than being imported by a traveler.

Feb. 25: A top Olympics official suggested the 2020 Tokyo Olympic games, scheduled to begin on July 24, could be canceled, with a decision to be made by the end of May.

Feb. 23: A number of high profile events were canceled in Italy, including Serie A football matches and one of the world’s biggest fashion shows in Milan. The Venice Carnival, a world-famous masquerade, was also cut short. Tens of thousands of Italians were put into lockdown after a third death was recorded in the country.

Feb. 21: Italy reported the first person-to-person transmission of the virus and the total number of COVID-19 infections had risen to six. The cases were clustered in Italy’s Lombardy region, in the north. A day later, Feb. 22, Italy reported its first two deaths.

Feb. 20: South Korea reported its first death from the coronavirus.

Feb. 19: Iran’s first confirmed cases of COVID-19 were reported and, on the same day, its first two deaths.

One of the biggest video game conferences, PAX East, which takes place in Boston, saw a few cancellations. Sony, which manufactures the PlayStation and is scheduled to show off the highly-anticipated title The Last of Us Part II, decides it will not be attending due to coronavirus concerns.

In a breakthrough, researchers working with the coronavirus created the first 3D map of a special protein that allows the coronavirus to get into human cells. Using state-of-the-art microscopy, the team at the University of Texas at Austin showed the virus is able to bind to human cells stronger than the SARS coronavirus but also noted the spike proteins can be targeted in the creation of a vaccine or treatment.

A vaccine, however, is still at least 18 months away.

Feb. 17: Apple announced the coronavirus is likely to hurt its first-quarter revenue as factories are shuttered and fewer Chinese customers are purchasing iPhones.

“Work is starting to resume around the country, but we are experiencing a slower return to normal conditions than we had anticipated,” Apple said in a statement. “As a result, we do not expect to meet the revenue guidance we provided for the March quarter.”

Shigeru Omi, the chief director of the Japan Community Health Care Organization, suggested the Olympics could be disrupted or even canceled, depending on how the virus continues to spread and evolve over the next few months.

“Whether the virus is under control by the time of the Olympics is anyone’s guess,” he said.

Feb. 14: The US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) released new images of the virus for the first time. NIAID’s Rocky Mountain Laboratories in Montana used specialized equipment, scanning and transmission electron microscopes, to capture the digitally colorized close-ups.

Feb. 12: Mobile World Congress, the world’s largest trade show for the mobile industry, was cancelled by the show’s organizer, the GSMA. The cancellation came after numerous big names including LG, Nvidia, Nokia, Vodafone, Amazon, Facebook and many more announced they would be pulling out.

Chinese health authorities reported a jump in the amount of cases and deaths in Hubei, the epicenter of the outbreak. Over 13,300 new cases were recorded in Hubei alone, an increase of 700% over the previous day. Chinese authorities had adopted a new clinical method for confirming cases, which saw them add “clinically diagnosed cases” to the count, potentially helping patients receive treatment sooner, according to CNN.

Feb. 11: WHO officially name the disease caused by the novel coronavirus “COVID-19” (for coronavirus disease 2019.) That made things a little confusing because the virus itself is not named COVID-19, but SARS-CoV-2.

Feb. 9: The outbreak reached a grim milestone: 811 deaths — more than the 2002-2003 SARS epidemic, which killed around 800 people.

Feb. 8: The first US citizen died from COVID-19 in Wuhan.

Feb. 7: Li Wenliang, the Chinese doctor who originally sounded the alarm about a spate of mysterious SARS-like illnesses in his WeChat group, died. He was 34. An outpouring of grief and angst from Chinese people followed.

Feb. 4: The Diamond Princess returned to port but Japanese health authorities were invited onboard to check the crew for signs of the coronavirus. It had 2,666 guests and 1,045 crew on board.

Feb. 2: The first death outside China was reported in the Philippines. A 44-year-old man from Wuhan with preexisting health conditions developed severe pneumonia and died at a hospital in Manila.

Feb. 1: A passenger who stayed aboard the Diamond Princess cruise from Yokohama, Japan and disembarked in Hong Kong was confirmed to have the coronavirus. The ship was scheduled to return to port on Feb. 4.

Jan. 30: WHO declared a public health emergency of international concern. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of WHO, said the organization is working with national and international public health partners to get the outbreak under control. WHO also issued recommendations to prevent the spread of the virus and ensure a “measured and evidence-based response.”

Jan. 28: 100 deaths were recorded in China, with most of them coming from Hubei province, the epicenter of the outbreak.

Jan. 24: Major attractions began closing down including Disney Parks in Shanghai and Hong Kong.

Jan. 23: China began to lock down cities including Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak. Public transport was suspended, as were flights and trains out of the city.  The travel restrictions were extended to four other cities (Huanggang, Ezhou, Chibi and Zhijiang) later that day, and constraints were announced in eight more cities on Jan. 24. Beijing canceled Lunar New Year plans, which were to begin Jan. 25.

Jan. 20: The first human-to-human transmission was reported by a Chinese expert on infectious diseases after two individuals caught the disease from family members and 14 health workers were infected by patients. This was a significant development in the spread of the virus and suggested cases could be much higher.

Jan. 16: Japan saw its first case of the virus, a man who had traveled to Wuhan.

Jan. 13: The first case outside China was reported by WHO. A woman who had traveled from Wuhan to Thailand tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

Jan. 11: The first death was reported. A 61-year-old male with an underlying health condition who had visited the seafood market died from heart failure on Jan. 9.

Jan. 10: The genetic sequence of the isolated coronavirus was shared for the first time. In total four sequences of the virus were shared by various Chinese research institutes. A team investigating the virus eventually published their research in the New England Journal of Medicine on Jan. 24.

Jan. 7: A novel coronavirus was identified from patients and dubbed with a placeholder name: 2019-nCoV.

Jan. 1: China shut down the Huanan Wholesale Seafood Market in Wuhan, which was linked to a number of patients with the disease.


Dec. 31: China alerted WHO of a spate of illnesses in Wuhan, China. The central city lies some 650 miles south of Beijing and is home to more than 11 million people.

Dec. 30: Dr Li Wenliang, a doctor at Wuhan Central Hospital, warned colleagues from his medical school via WeChat about a cluster of patients being treated for viral pneumonia, linking it to the SARS coronavirus. Investigations would later rule out that virus — which had caused an outbreak in 2002-2003.

Wenliang was reprimanded by Chinese authorities for speaking out about the mysterious illnesses he had seen at his hospital and was forced to sign a statement saying he was spreading rumors.

Dec. 1: The first patient experienced symptoms of the mysterious pneumonia-like illness now known as COVID-19. No epidemiological link was established between this case and later instances of the disease.

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