In a matter of months, the coronavirus crisis has exploded into a pandemic of historic proportions. Like a wave, the numbers of those sickened and killed by the virus have swelled in quick succession, leaving many bereft, isolated and wondering, “How did we get here?”
Less than four months after the United States’ first recorded Covid-19 death in February, more than 100,000 deaths have been reported on American soil. A timeline of this grim reality reveals a country trying to come to terms with the crisis while the death toll continues to rise, surpassing the losses of major wars, the attacks on 9/11 and numerous other outbreaks.
May 27, 2020
100,000 reported deaths
The first known death in the US from Covid-19 is reported in Washington state, nearly six weeks after the CDC confirmed the first US case and two months after the WHO was notified of a “pneumonia of unknown cause” in China. It would later be discovered that an earlier death on February 6 was due to Covid-19.
“This is not a drill. This is not the time to give up. This is not a time for excuses. This is a time for pulling out all the stops. Countries have been planning for scenarios like this for decades. Now is the time to act on those plans.” — WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warns countries to be prepared for the coming effects of coronavirus.
The WHO declares the novel coronavirus outbreak a pandemic.
Concern about the pandemic leads the NCAA to cancel the March Madness tournament a day after the NBA announced it was postponing the rest of its season. The MLB cancels spring training and postpones the start of its season. The postponement of NASCAR races, the Kentucky Derby and other sporting events follows in quick succession.
President Trump declares a national emergency. The announcement frees up $50 billion in federal resources to combat the virus.
Puerto Rico Governor Wanda Vázquez orders a nightly curfew and the closing of nonessential businesses.
“We’ll see what happens, but they think August, could be July, could be longer than that.” — President Trump, estimating when life in the US could be back to normal as he outlines new coronavirus guidelines from the White House.
The number of reported Covid-19 deaths in the US reaches 100 just weeks after the first reported casualty.
The first statewide stay-at-home restrictions are enacted in California by Governor Gavin Newsom.
Labor Department data show a record 3.3 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits during the previous week as businesses shut down to slow the spread of the coronavirus. This is the highest number of initial jobless claims since the agency started tracking the data in 1967. The previous high was 695,000 claims filed in the week ending October 2, 1982.
The death toll surpasses the number of people who died, directly or indirectly, from Hurricane Katrina.
Trump signs into law a historic $2 trillion stimulus package, the largest emergency aid package in US history. The same day, the number of recorded Covid-19 cases in the US hit 101,000, surpassing reported cases in other hard-hit countries like China and Italy, and marking the US as a new epicenter of the disease.
The death toll surpasses the number killed in the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
“I mean, looking at what we’re seeing now, you know, I would say between 100 and 200,000.” — Dr. Anthony Fauci, predicts that the US will see at least 100,000 deaths from Covid-19. That dire prediction is realized two months later.
The number of reported Covid-19 cases worldwide hits 1 million. In the US, 39 states have issued sweeping stay-at-home restrictions and new Labor Department data show that 6.6 million Americans — later revised up to 6.9 million — filed for unemployment benefits during the week ending March 28. That’s more than double the record-breaking 3.3 million who filed the week before.
The death toll surpasses the number of people who died in the 2014-16 Ebola outbreak in West Africa.
New York state records more than 162,000 total cases of Covid-19, more cases than any other country outside of the US.
The number of global confirmed Covid-19 cases hits 2 million, doubling from 1 million in less than two weeks. In the US, new Census Bureau numbers show that retail sales slumped 8.7% in March, the worst monthly decline since the Bureau started keeping records in 1992.
The death toll surpasses the number of US military personnel who died in the Korean War.
US oil prices fall below $0 a barrel for the first time since oil futures began trading on NYMEX in 1983, marking a new low in an already-growing global oil crisis.
New autopsy results show that two Californians died of Covid-19 in early and mid-February — up to three weeks before what was previously thought to be the first US death from the virus.
The death toll surpasses the number who died from influenza and pneumonia in the US in 2017.
The death toll surpasses the number of US military personnel who died in the Vietnam War.
Reported Covid-19 cases in the US reach the 1 million mark.
The death toll surpasses 62,000, the high-end estimate for flu deaths during the entire 2019-2020 flu season. Covid-19 kills the same amount of people in the US in less than three months.
Federal social distancing guidelines expire.
The death toll surpasses the number of US military personnel who died in Vietnam, the Iraq War and the War in Afghanistan, combined.
Trump declares his coronavirus task force will continue “indefinitely” one day after he and Pence said they were phasing out the panel in favor of a group focused on reopening the economy.
New Labor Department data reveal that an estimated 20.5 million Americans lost their jobs in April and the unemployment rate soared to 14.7% by the end of the month. The last time joblessness was this severe was the Great Depression.
The number of Covid-19 deaths in the US is 100 times higher than the number of people who died during the SARS crisis of 2002-2004.
By Mother’s Day, nearly all states have relaxed restrictions on some combination of businesses, services or parks. A prominent coronavirus model ups its projection to 137,000 US deaths by August, based in part on loosened social distancing rules.
New Census Bureau data show that US retail sales plummeted by 16.4% in April, the largest monthly decline since the Bureau started keeping records in 1992. Compared to April 2019, sales were down 21.6%.
In a letter to WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Trump escalates his threats against the organization, telling the agency he will permanently pull US funding if it does not “commit to major substantive improvements in the next 30 days.” The letter assails the WHO’s stance toward China throughout the pandemic and lists a series of allegations that the organization overlooked warning signs.
Connecticut becomes the last state to begin lifting restrictions. All US states are now at least partially reopened, though daily case rates continue to rise in some parts of the country.
For the ninth week in a row, millions of Americans file for initial unemployment benefits. An additional 2.4 million filed during the week ending May 16, meaning a total of 38.6 million people have filed since mid-March when lockdowns began in full force across the country.
The death toll surpasses the number of US military deaths in the Vietnam and Korean wars combined.
The reported US death toll surpasses 100,000 people.
As the country begins to reopen, it’s clear that life will look starkly different on the other side of the crisis. In just a few months, more than 100,000 people have died in the US with a global toll of more than 350,000 lives, a scale both difficult to comprehend and beyond any pandemic in recent history.
These massive numbers are not just anonymous figures. They represent individual lives — and the countless loved ones left behind in the wake of the pandemic, grappling with how to mourn and pay tribute to the people they’ve lost.