How US Respond to Coronavirus in Early Days

Here is the timeline on how US responded to Coronavirus from middle January to end of March.


On January 15, the first known person in the US infected with coronavirus arrived in Seattle from Wuhan.

On the same day, Stephen Lindstrom, a leading scientist at CDC said in a conference call that the coronavirus threat was remote and they may not need the test his team was developing “unless the scope gets much larger than we anticipate”.

On January 17, CDC started implementing public health entry screening at San Francisco, New York, and Los Angeles airports. CDC added screening at Atlanta and Chicago the following week.

On January 21, CDC confirmed the first case in US in the state of Washington.

On January 23, just two days before Chinese New Year, China locked down Wuhan, a major city of 11 million residents.

On January 31, Trump announced travel ban that prevent those who visited China within 14 days from entering US. At that time, the death toll in China was 258.

Later that day, Joe Biden slammed Trump’s travel ban:

This is no time for Donald Trump’s record of hysteria and xenophobia - hysterical xenophobia - and fearmongering to lead the way instead of science.

On the same day, Secretary Azar declared public health emergency in the US due to coronavirus.


On February 4, Trump stated in his State of the Union speech:

Protecting Americans’ health also means fighting infectious diseases.  We are coordinating with the Chinese government and working closely together on the coronavirus outbreak in China.  My administration will take all necessary steps to safeguard our citizens from this threat.

On February 7, one day after talking to Xi Jinping, Trump told Woodward that that Coronavirus “goes through air”, and “more deadly than even your strenuous flus”:

It goes through air, Bob. That’s always tougher than the touch. The touch, you don’t have to touch things, right? But the air, you just breathe the air and that’s how it’s passed. And so that’s a very tricky one. That’s a very delicate one. It’s also more deadly than even your strenuous flus. People don’t realize, we lose 25,000, 30,000 people a year here. Who would ever think that, right?

On February 8, one of the first CDC test kits were deployed. However, they just didn’t work.

On February 13, NYC Mayor de Blasio visited Flushing, and encouraged New Yorkers to travel to Chinatown. At that time, there were nearly 1400 deaths globally.

On February 17, Dr. Fauci said the risk of coronavirus in the US is “just minuscule”, and no need to wear masks unless one was contagious. Instead, he warned about the flu:

We have more kids dying of flu this year at this time than in the last decade or more. At the same time people are worrying about going to a Chinese restaurant. The threat is (we have) a pretty bad influenza season, particularly dangerous for our children.

On February 24, Nancy Pelosi visited Francisco’s Chinatown, and encouraged people to visit:

That’s what we’re trying to do today is to say everything is fine here. Come because precautions have been taken. The city is on top of the situation.

On February 26, CDC confirmed the first possible community transmission of coronavirus in the US in the state of California.

On February 29, Dr. Fauci said there’s no need to change lifestyle yet, and that he had “never been muzzled” by the Trump administration.

On the same day, Surgeon General asked people to “stop buying masks”, because they were not effective for the general public:

Seriously people- STOP BUYING MASKS!

They are NOT effective in preventing general public from catching #Coronavirus, but if healthcare providers can’t get them to care for sick patients, it puts them and our communities at risk!

— U.S. Surgeon General (@Surgeon_General) February 29, 2020

Also on this day, FDA finally relaxed so that laboratories could use tests they developed and validated, instead of solely relying on CDC.


On March 4, Los Angeles County declared health emergency due to coronavirus. However, four days later, about 27000 participants joined Los Angeles Marathon.

On March 4, Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) asked people to “stop wearing face masks”:

On March 8, Dr. Fauci said “there’s no reason to be walking around with a mask”, “it’s not providing the perfect protection that people think that it is”, and “there are unintended consequences”:

LaPook: There’s a lot of confusion among people, and misinformation, surrounding face masks. Can you discuss that?

Fauci: The masks are important for someone who’s infected to prevent them from infecting someone else... Right now in the United States, people should not be walking around with masks.

LaPook: You’re sure of it? Because people are listening really closely to this.

Fauci: ... There’s no reason to be walking around with a mask. When you’re in the middle of an outbreak, wearing a mask might make people feel a little bit better and it might even block a droplet, but it’s not providing the perfect protection that people think that it is. And, often, there are unintended consequences — people keep fiddling with the mask and they keep touching their face.

On March 9, Dr. Fauci said it was fine to go cruising if young and healthy:

If you are a healthy young person, there is no reason if you want to go on a cruise ship, go on a cruise ship.

On March 11, Trump announced travel ban against those who were in Schengen countries 14 days prior to entering US.

On March 12, Joe Biden condemned Trump’s travel ban:

Banning all travel from Europe or any other part of the world may slow it, but as we’ve seen it will not stop it. And travel restrictions based on favoritism and politics rather than a risk will be counterproductive.

On March 16, the Trump administration published the “15 Days to Slow the Spread” guideline.

On March 19, Trump told Woodward he “wanted to always play it down”, because he didn’t “want to create a panic”:

I wanted to always play it down. I still like playing it down because I don’t want to create a panic.

On March 24, Dr. Fauci said Trump had listened to what he and other people in the coronavirus task force said, and asked the media to stop “pitting” him against the President.

On March 27, USNS Mercy was deployed to Los Angeles to support coronavirus response.

On March 30, USNS Comfort was deployed to New York City to support coronavirus response.

On March 30, Dr. Fauci said Trump “got it right away” on data that suggested the need to extend social distancing guidelines.

On March 31, Dr. Fauci said the coronavirus task force was still evaluating whether to suggest Americans wear masks.

New York

On March 1, the first coronavirus in New York City was confirmed.

On March 5, New York Governor Cuomo bragged about New York’s readiness and said he would protect the senior:

The people who have to be most concerned - senior citizens, people who have an underlying immune compromised situation or an underlying illness - those are the people we have to work hardest to protect.

What am I worried about as Governor? Nursing homes, senior congregate facilities, that is where we have to do our best work because that is a population that could be subject to a serious situation if the coronavirus was present there.


And also remember where this is going to be most problematic locally will be for those countries that don't have a sophisticated healthcare system. Luckily in this country, and certainly in this state, we have the most sophisticated healthcare system probably on the globe. So, we're coordinated, we're on top of it, we're diligent. But we also have to keep it all in focus.

On March 18, New York Governor Cuomo said he would not approve the “shelter-in-place” order in NYC.

Nursing Homes

On March 25, New York Governor Cuomo required nursing homes to admit patients who were suspected to have or had tested positive. The order was reversed on May 10, and deleted from website in late May.

Because of this policy, there were at least 6600 nursing home deaths in New York. However, AP found that there could be thousands more because those died in the hospitals were not counted.

New York is not alone. California, Michigan, New Jersey and several others also have similar policies. In August, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer even vetoed a bill that would stop nursing homes from accepting covid patients.

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