Nov. 15, 2019: The first known case of the novel coronavirus appears in a 55-year-old in the Hubei province of China, though scientists won’t know about it for several months. 

Dec. 31, 2019: China alerts the World Health Organization about several cases of viral pneumonia in Wuhan, the capital of Hubei. Patients have been quarantined, and health officials are working on tracing the infection.  

Jan. 1: The Wuhan market is identified as the source of the virus, though scientists will later come to believe this conclusion is inaccurate. 

Jan. 7: Having ruled out MERS, SARS, and the bird flu, China reports that the spreading illness is caused by a novel coronavirus called 2019-nCoV. 

Jan. 11: A 61-year-old man from Wuhan becomes the coronavirus’s first fatality. Chinese researchers post the virus’s genome, which enables virologists in Berlin to create a diagnostic test a week later. By the end of February, the World Health Organization had shipped that test to 60 countries—but not the U.S., which for unknown reasons, declined it in favor of its own test. That test initially failed, costing the U.S. valuable weeks while the virus spread.   

Jan. 13: A patient in Thailand is diagnosed with the virus after traveling from Wuhan, the first known case of it spreading outside of China. 

Jan. 16: A man in Japan tests positive after visiting Wuhan. 

Jan. 17: A second person in Wuhan dies. 

Jan. 20: Wuhan reports more than 200 cases. A third person dies. South Korea reports its first case. 

Jan. 21: The U.S. confirms its first coronavirus case, a man in his 30s who was hospitalized after returning from China.

Jan. 23: China quarantines Wuhan.

Jan. 26: China quarantines cities surrounding Wuhan, a population of 41 million people. Twenty-six people have died, and more than 800 are infected. 

Feb. 1: Cases of the virus have been identified in the UK, Canada, Singapore, Australia, Germany, and Vietnam. More than 250 people have died in China, and nearly 12,000 people have contracted COVID-19, the disease the novel coronavirus causes. 

Feb. 5: The Diamond Princess cruise ship is quarantined off the coast of Japan. 

Feb. 6: More than 28,000 cases have been reported in China, along with nearly 600 deaths. 

Feb. 7: Chinese whistleblower Dr. Lei Wenliang, a Wuhan ophthalmologist dies who had warned colleagues on December 30 about a SARS-like respiratory illness on WeChat, and who was later admonished by Chinese authorities, dies from the virus after contracting it from an infected patient at the hospital. 

Feb. 11: The WHO declares a public health emergency, dubbing the illness the virus causes COVID-19. 

Feb. 14: A patient in France dies of the novel coronavirus, becoming Europe’s first fatality. 

Feb. 16: While there are more than 68,000 cases in China, the country’s draconian containment measures cause the infection rate to begin to drop. 

Feb. 19: The first cases in Iran are reported, as well as two fatalities. 

Feb. 21: Three cases are reported in Italy. 

Feb. 23: After a third death is reported in Italy, towns are locked down. 

Feb. 25: Trump administration economic adviser Larry Kudlow says, “We have contained this.”

Feb. 26: Trump tells the country—and the falling stock market—that he’s done a great job and everything will be over soon: “And again, when you have 15 people—and the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero—that’s a pretty good job we’ve done.” Moments before he said that, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention informed him of the first know case of community spread, meaning a case not linked to travel and a sign that the virus was about to spread quickly. 

Feb. 29: A person in a Seattle-area nursing home becomes the first U.S. fatality. 

March 3: Governor Cooper reports the first case of coronavirus in North Carolina, a Wake County man who had recently traveled to the Seattle-area nursing home. 

March 6: A second case is reported in North Carolina, this time a person in Chatham County who had recently returned from Italy.

March 9: Five more cases are identified in Wake County, employees of the Research Triangle Park company Biogen who had traveled to a conference in Boston. 

March 10: Cooper declares a state of emergency and asks those who can to telecommute for the foreseeable future. To date, seven people have tested positive for the virus in North Carolina, but the state’s shortage of test kits means that number is likely a vast undercount. 

March 11: The NBA suspends its season, and the NCAA cancels March Madness. Duke University extends its spring break a week and cancels in-person classes for the rest of the semester. In an Oval Office address, Trump blames the European Union for failing to contain the virus and enacts a travel ban. 

March 12: The stock market crashes. Seven new patients test positive for the virus in North Carolina, and a wave of local event cancellations begin. Billie Eilish, however, takes the stage with a crowd of 20,000 at PNC Arena in Raleigh—Live Nation cancels wouldn’t cancel its tours until the next day.

March 13: Trump declares a state of emergency, as does Wake County. J. Cole’s Dreamville Festival is postponed. Durham County closes its schools, joining the two Orange County school districts (but not Wake’s). Three new cases are announced statewide. 

March 14: Seven new cases are confirmed, including a teacher from Fuquay-Varina, leading Wake County to cancel school as well. A few hours later, Governor Cooper signs an executive order ordering all schools closed for two weeks and banning gatherings of over 100 people. At this point, 24 cases have been identified statewide, but only 160 have been tested. 

March 15: Seven more people test positive in North Carolina, including three in Wake County. 

March 16: Trump says the impacts of the virus may linger until July or August and recommends avoiding gatherings of more than 10 people.  Seven new cases are reported throughout the state, including a 15th person in Wake County.

March 17: Cooper orders all restaurants and bars closed to dine-in patrons. The Trump administration announces it will seek $850 billion in tax cuts and bailouts for the struggling airline industry. There are more than 185,0000 confirmed cases globally, more than 4,600 in the U.S., and at least 45 in North Carolina. So far, more than 7,300 people have died worldwide, including at least 85 in the U.S. There have been no documented COVID-19 fatalities in North Carolina thus far, nor has there been a documented case of community spread. That’s unlikely to be the case for long. 

Contact Raleigh news editor Leigh Tauss at 

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