March 2020: First Coronavirus Timeline

December 23, 2020

Photo by Anna Shvets on

“During bad circumstances, which is the human inheritance, you must decide not to be reduced. You have your humanity, and you must not allow anything to reduce that. We are obliged to know we are global citizens. Disasters remind us we are world citizens, whether we like it or not.” – Maya Angelou

Let’s talk about the coronavirus timeline.

November 17, 2019: (As reported by the South China Morning Post in March 2020) a review of government data being used to map the early transmission of the virus suggests the first case of coronavirus disease is traced back to a 55 year old Hubei resident who contracted the virus on November 17th.

December 16, 2019: one of the earliest noted Covid-19 patients, a 57 year old Wuhan resident (who fell ill on December 10 and likely contracted the virus in early December) is admitted to the hospital with infections in both lungs.

In late December of 2019, Dr. Li, a Chinese ophthalmologist, noticed infections that appeared similar to a coronavirus that led to the SARS epidemic in 2003. He shares information about it with other doctors on Weibo and WeChat. On December 30th, he notified authorities of his findings.

On December 31, 2019, China confirmed cases of a new virus infecting its citizens in the city of Wuhan.

The timeline so far is somewhat imprecise and may be inaccurate in some respects. The Wall Street Journal identifies Wei Guixan (noted above as one of the first patients hospitalized for Covid-19 in Wuhan on December 16) as “patient zero,” but the review of early transmission data being analyzed by scientists in China reportedly indicates infectious contact several weeks earlier. Dr. Li has been termed the “whistleblower” (who was told to stop making false statements about the virus by authorities and later died of the very disease for which he raised alarm), but there were actually a number of other medical professionals involved in the dialogue about this new virus making an ugly appearance. It is reasonable to consider the timeline relatively accurate for the purpose of this exercise until more data becomes readily available.

On January 9, 2020, China announces it has mapped the cononavirus genome, and on January 10th, the first patient with the infection dies.

From January 11-17th, Wuhan health commission insists there are no new cases of the disease. Yet by January 20th, the virus has spread to Thailand, South Korea, Japan, and the United States.

On January 23, 2020, China quarantines Wuhan and three other cities in Hubei province with a total population of 36 million. 5 million people leave the cities anyway without being screened for the infection. By this point, 17 people have died from the virus.

On January 24, China begins building a new hospital in Wuhan at lightening speed: in just ten days, using prefabricated units, they put up a 645,000 square foot, 2 floor make-shift hospital with 1000 beds, several isolation wards, and 30 intensive care units.

The Chinese government is likely good at this given all the practice they’ve had at building “retraining camps” in remote locations of their country…

From January 24-30, China celebrates the lunar new year, and hundreds of millions of people travel around the country, despite the fact that Chinese authorities are beginning to implement restrictions in an attempt to contain the virus.  Also, over a month too late on that containment thing.

On January 30th, the World Health Organization declares a global health emergency.

On January 31st, Donald Trump restricts travel from China, which is too fucking late, since the first case from China had already arrived fifteen days earlier, thereby sharing the infectious disease. By this point, over 200 people have died and almost 10,000 people are infected with the novel coronavirus.

“Novel coronavirus,” just means it’s new: this is the first time this particular coronavirus has infected people. Coronaviridae are widespread among mammals: over 60 different subtypes have been identified in bats alone with many species having their very own unique subtype, which may indicate a history of co-evolution. Seven types have been  identified in humans, and up until SARS made an appearance in 2003, Coronaviridae was considered a minor pathogen in humans.

On February 11th, the WHO named the new infection Covid-19, an acronym for coronavirus disease 2019.

On February 13th, there are almost 15,000 new infections in Hubei Province.

February 14th thru February 28th: during this 2 week period, the virus spreads all around the fucking world: a cruise ship has been quarantined off the coast of Japan, France has its first death, Italy has a major surge of cases and the country begins to quarantine, Iran becomes another focal-point of the virus with infections spreading from there all across the Middle East and even into Canada, a secretive church congregation in South Korea causes the infection to spread, Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America report their first cases, and the number of infections in Europe spikes.

And the stock markets begin their fall.

On February 29th, the United States records its first coronavirus death. The president responds by telling people not to travel to areas hardest hit by the virus in Italy and South Korea, and forbids travel to and from Iran. The Twat-Waffle-in-Chief continues to behave as if the virus isn’t already here in the States and that the shit isn’t going to hit the proverbial fan.

On March 3, the CDC lifts federal restrictions on coronavirus testing after their own attempt to create a diagnostic test kit failed.

On March 11, the World Health Organization declared the virus a pandemic, the stock markets continue to drop like a lead balloon, and the president restricts all travel from Europe (although initially excluding the U.K. from this travel ban). Again, too fucking late, as the U.S. is its own hotbed of viral infection and the president is in abject and negligent denial of reality.

On March 13, 2020, a full two months after the first infected patient arrived in the United States, Donald Trump, the president of the United States, finally declares a national emergency.

That was just over two weeks ago. Friday the 13th of March, 2020.

Two weeks later, on Friday, March 27th, South Korea has effectively flattened its curve (in two month’s time) by utilizing fast intervention techniques, testing early & often, contact tracing & isolation, practical and timely dissemination of information, and effectively enlisting the public’s help with a high level of social trust.

China announced it has no new local infections and will be easing quarantine restrictions in Hubei province, and possibly easing the quarantine in Wuhan as well in a couple of weeks, a full 76 days after the heavily populated areas were quarantined, three months after one of the earliest patients was hospitalized with complications from the disease, and four months after the first infection.

At the same time, the United States has surpassed everyone else to have the highest number of reported infections in the world. The president continues to make ignorant, uninformed, and plainly stupid commentary while refusing to face the problems of an infectious epidemic like the competent leader we truly need because he doesn’t know how to lead: he literally has no fucking clue on how to handle the pandemic, how to assure the populace that we will get through this together, or how to enact policies to actively combat the spread of the virus. We could really use some effective leadership for our country to stop the spread of misinformation and coordinate efforts to control the spread and treat the infected. Instead, we have these piece-meal local engagements with our societal needs, some better equipped than others, and with some communities refusing to engage in safer social practices to curb the spread of the disease, we have a nightmare at the intersection of ignorance, cognitive dissonance, and arrogant self-interest.

Since we don’t have the authoritarian infrastructure necessary to completely quarantine large segments of the population like China, nor do we have the sort of medically insightful social cohesivity that permits quick and effective intervention as seen in South Korea, I suspect that we’re in for a bit of a bumpy ride, America.

We exist at an extraordinary historical moment. Plague and pestilence is not a new crisis experience for homo sapiens, but this global infectious incident in all of its consequence is a new experience for those of us alive today. We have much to learn from the entirety of this pandemic: about ourselves, individually and collectively, as well as the manner in which we engage the world around us. When the dust finally settles, we cannot simply go back to the way we were, the way we lived, without consequence: we must find a way to advance our ways of thinking and behaving in this world, to cultivate a more reliable sense of responsibility, to nurture an awareness of our mutual significance, to derive an evolved sense of our humanity, and embrace an astute sensibility that enables the courage to act on our own collective behalf.

Let’s see how many of you fuckers are truly up to the challenge…

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead

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