TIMELINE: March 11, 2020 - What happened when COVID-19 was declared a pandemic two years ago

FILE - A laboratory technician prepares COVID-19 patient samples for semi-automatic testing at...
FILE - A laboratory technician prepares COVID-19 patient samples for semi-automatic testing at Northwell Health Labs, March 11, 2020, in Lake Success, N.Y. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)(John Minchillo | AP)
Updated: Mar. 11, 2022 at 10:00 AM CST
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - For many people in the United States and across the world, the reality of the COVID-19 pandemic began to take shape on March 11, 2020.

Two years ago to the date Friday, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic.

At that time, nearly 120,000 cases and 4,000 deaths from the virus had been reported across 118 countries. COVID-19 had just started to take a grip in the United States, leading to the first-known cases and deaths just weeks before the calendar flipped to March.

When the WHO declared COVID-19 as a pandemic, there were many unknowns about the virus itself and its ramifications on public health, but the main focus was to limit its spread and severity of illness. Ultimately, the declaration came with a realization that the novel coronavirus would be unavoidable for months to come and possibly longer.

By the end of the week, COVID-19′s impact could be felt in several aspects of life, including education, business, politics, sports and entertainment. Mask mandates and virus testing had not yet been the norm, but cities began shutting down, employers shifted to remote working and school closures piled up in efforts to limit the spread.

March 11, 2020, began in one reality and virtually ended in a new one as several events unfolded throughout the day. Here is a timeline looking back at some of the top stories that captured worldwide attention two years ago.

TIMELINE (MARCH 11, 2020)

MORNING

A few non-virus-related stories made headlines the morning before COVID-19 was declared a pandemic.

Then-presidential candidate Joe Biden started the day with primary wins in four new states, including Missouri, as he competed against Bernie Sanders for nomination as the Democratic Party presidential candidate for the 2020 election.

Harvey Weinstein, a former American film producer convicted of sex crimes, had also been sentenced to 23 years in prison that morning.

COVID-19 came to a forefront after Dr. Anthony Fauci, the Chief Medical Advisor to the President, discussed the topic with lawmakers at Capitol Hill. Just more than 1,000 cases had been reported in the United States, but Fauci said, “We will see more cases, and things will get worse than they are right now.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci, left, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases,...
Dr. Anthony Fauci, left, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, testifies alongside Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, during a House Oversight Committee hearing on preparedness for and response to the coronavirus outbreak on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, March 11, 2020. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)(Patrick Semansky | AP)

Within hours of Fauci’s remarks, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of the World Health Organization officially declared the worldwide outbreak as a pandemic. He noted the WHO was “deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity and by the alarming levels of inaction.”

It was the first worldwide pandemic declaration for an illness since H1N1 in 2009. The announcement marked a turning point for many countries to either start taking action or consider what kind of resources might help amid the outbreak.

MIDDAY

Institutions started taking action around the latest COVID-19 developments.

High-profile universities, such as Harvard and Notre Dame, were among the first to cancel in-person classes and announce temporary online courses on March 11. The University of Missouri followed lead and suspended in-person classes by the afternoon hours, a decision countless colleges and public schools weighed in the upcoming days.

Some U.S. cities started taking aggressive measures after the WHO’s pandemic declaration. San Francisco’s Mayor London Breed announced via Twitter that the city would prohibit future gatherings of 1,000 people or more indefinitely.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee also banned gatherings of more than 250 people in the Seattle region, which had reported the nation’s first COVID-19 case in January and had accounted for nearly two-thirds of U.S. virus deaths at the time.

FILE - In this March 11, 2020, file photo Judie Shape, center, who has tested positive for the...
FILE - In this March 11, 2020, file photo Judie Shape, center, who has tested positive for the coronavirus, blows a kiss to her son-in-law, Michael Spencer, left, as Shape's daughter, Lori Spencer, right, looks on, as they visit on the phone and look at each other through a window at the Life Care Center in Kirkland, Wash., near Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)(Ted S. Warren | AP)

Following these restrictions and guidance from an advisory panel, the National Collegiate Athletic Association announced plans to host March Madness without fans. The annual college basketball tournament showcases 68 teams, and ticket sales make up one of the NCAA’s largest sources of income each year.

The NCAA cited public health concerns in a statement addressing the situation. One day later, March Madness was canceled due to the pandemic and all other ongoing college hoops tournaments came to an abrupt end.

In non-pandemic news, U.S. officials announced during the early afternoon hours that a rocket attack in Iraq led to the deaths of three service members, including two Americans. Nearly a dozen others were hurt in the attack.

EVENING

It wasn’t until the late-evening hours that more Americans noticed the severity of the pandemic first-hand.

On the evening on March 11, 2020, then-U.S. President Donald Trump addressed the nation from the Oval Office. He announced a temporary, 30-day travel ban from Europe to the United States would take effect by the end of the week. The restrictions did not apply to the United Kingdom, but for 26 other European nations.

During the prime-time address, Trump noted his administration had been weighing steps to provide financial relief for industries negatively impacted by COVID-19. He also called on the Treasury Department to defer tax payments for some individuals and companies.

FILE - In this March 11, 2020, file photo, President Donald Trump addresses the nation from the...
FILE - In this March 11, 2020, file photo, President Donald Trump addresses the nation from the Oval Office about the coronavirus outbreak at the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)(Manuel Balce Ceneta | AP)

While taking note of Trump’s remarks, people also began learning that a U.S. celebrity had contracted COVID-19. Hollywood icon Tom Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson tested positive for the virus while visiting Australia.

In an Instagram post, Hanks explained he and his wife began to experience fatigue, chills and slight fevers, several of the earliest-known symptoms of the novel coronavirus. Hanks noted the couple would be tested, observed, and isolated “for as long as public health and safety requires,” raising attention to Americans who may not have previously known someone diagnosed with the virus.

On top of that, COVID-19 clashed with basketball for the second time in less than a day. The National Basketball Association became the first major American sports league to announce its season would be postponed in response to the pandemic.

A game planned between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Utah Jazz set the stage for prolonged sports cancellations around the globe. Just before the two opponents planned to tip off, officials brought the head coaches to half court to inform them that star Jazz center Rudy Gobert had tested positive for COVID-19.

Gobert had planned to sit out the game with an undisclosed illness, but had been in close contact with teammates prior to his diagnosis. With many unknowns still surrounding the spread of the virus, the NBA ordered to cancel the game, test all players and close personnel from both teams and isolate anyone else who additionally tested positive for COVID-19.

As the NBA mulled over its COVID-19 response, singer Frankie J, who was slated to perform during halftime, put on a show in Oklahoma City. As he walked off the court, the PA announcer told fans the game had been postponed “due to unforeseen circumstances.”

Fans wait for an announcement on the status of an an NBA basketball game between Oklahoma City...
Fans wait for an announcement on the status of an an NBA basketball game between Oklahoma City Thunder and Utah Jazz in Oklahoma City, Wednesday, March 11, 2020. (AP Photo/Kyle Phillips)(Kyle Phillips | AP)

Within the next few hours, the NBA announced it would suspend all games until further notice. The National Hockey League, Major League Baseball and many other professional sports leagues would announce postponements in the upcoming days.

NOW (March 11, 2022)

Two years later, more than 450 million cases and six million deaths have been attributed to COVID-19 worldwide, according to data from John Hopkins University.

With these trends have come some strides in battling the novel coronavirus and variants. John Hopkins reports more than 10.6 billion vaccinations administered worldwide.

Two years since the WHO declared COVID-19 as a pandemic...

  • The United States has reported 79.4 million cases, 965,000 deaths, 55.6 million recoveries and 554 million vaccines administered.
  • Missouri has reported 1.1 million cases, 15,600 deaths and 8.5 million vaccines administered. The state has not actively logged recoveries.
  • Greene County has reported 70,800 cases, 723 deaths, 69,100 recoveries and 148,000 residents fully vaccinated.

Last month, based on vaccination trends and declining virus hospitalizations in the United States, the CDC issued new guidance last month noted that most Americans, including students in schools, can safely take a break from wearing masks in response to downward COVID-19 cases.

Now two years into the pandemic, health leaders are encouraged by recent trends, but say it’s too early to let your guard down in response to the virus. The CDC still encourages people with symptoms, a positive test or exposure to someone with COVID-19 to wear a mask, regardless of vaccination status, to prevent the spread of the virus and possible variants.

March 11, 2020 marked the start of uncertain times in battling COVID-19, but it’s been followed with two years of extended education, resources and vaccinations to help improve public health around the globe.

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