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From Wuhan to Western North Carolina: A Coronavirus Pandemic timeline

Darker counties represent more coronavirus cases. Counties in white have no reported cases. Data is as of 2 p.m. on March 31, 2020. NCDHHS map Darker counties represent more coronavirus cases. Counties in white have no reported cases. Data is as of 2 p.m. on March 31, 2020. NCDHHS map

When the first rumors of a strange new contagious pneumonia-like illness began circulating in China late last fall, few could have imagined that the coronavirus outbreak would grow to become the global pandemic that it is today. 

The illness garnered little attention in the United States through January and even much of February, but the pace of its acceleration through March has left many wondering how, exactly, it progressed from Wuhan to Waynesville to Webster and throughout all of Western North Carolina in less than three months. 

Almost every newsgathering organization in the world is now reporting on the economic and social disruption caused by the coronavirus, above and beyond the 30,000 deaths associated with it. 

Integrating that reporting — global, national, regional, local — into one authoritative, comprehensive sequence shows how far we’ve come, even as we wonder how much further we have to go. 

MORE: For SMN's rolling coverage of the COVID-19 crisis, click here


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December 2019

• Early December 2019: What are now thought to be some of the first known cases of COVID19 appear China. Some are connected to the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in the Chinese city of Wuhan, some are not. 

• Late December 2019: Chinese physicians begin to suspect something is out of the ordinary as patients continue showing up with symptoms similar to pneumonia. The Chinese Centers for Disease Control and Prevention first reports on the outbreak, and the Wuhan health service issues warnings on Chinese social media. 


January 2020

• Jan. 3: Chinese scientists identify the virus and name it 2019-nCoV. Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Alex Azar learns that a U.S. CDC official has discussed the virus with Chinese doctors. 

• Jan. 5: China suspects it has 59 cases.

• Jan. 6: The U.S. CDC issues an advisory, warning travelers to Wuhan to avoid sick people and wash hands frequently. 

• Jan. 7: China censors the #WuhanSARS hash tag. 

• Jan. 8: A 61-year-old regular customer of the Huanan market becomes the first death attributable to coronavirus. 

• Jan. 12: First reported case outside of China, in Thailand. 

• Jan. 13: First reported case in Japan. 

• Jan. 19: First reported case in South Korea. 

• Jan. 20: Coronavirus spreads throughout China, totaling 219 cases. 

• Jan. 21: The World Health Organization issues its first report on the situation. The United States reports its first case, in Washington state. 

• Jan. 22: Chinese government suspends public transportation, flights and trains out of Wuhan, orders citizens to wear masks in public. WHO issues its second report on the situation. The virus spreads to Macao, Singapore and Vietnam. President Donald Trump tells CNBC, “We have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China.”

• Jan. 23: WHO issues its third report on the situation. The virus spreads to France and Nepal. 

• Jan. 24: The virus spreads to Australia, Canada and Malaysia. 

• Jan. 25: The United States plans to evacuate U.S. citizens from Wuhan. California becomes second U.S. state to confirm a case. 

• Jan. 26: Arizona becomes the third U.S. state to confirm a case. 

• Jan. 27: WHO declares coronavirus a global risk. Several Asian countries close their borders to Chinese travellers. 

• Jan. 28: The virus spreads to Finland and United Arab Emirates. 

• Jan. 30: Director-general of WHO declares coronavirus a “Public Health Emergency of International Concern.” The virus spreads to Spain, the United Kingdom, Sweden and Russia. 

• Jan. 31: More countries close borders with China and prohibit Chinese travellers. Global cases total 11,950 with 259 deaths.


February 2020

• Feb. 1: A total of eight cases are reported in four U.S. states. WHO issues its 12th report on the situation.

• Feb. 2: President Trump tells Sean Hannity, “We pretty much shut it down coming in from China. It’s going to be fine.”

• Feb. 5: American Airlines and United Airlines stop flying to and from Hong Kong. 

• Feb. 7:  A total of 12 cases are reported in six U.S. states.

• Feb. 11: North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper establishes COVID19 task force. 

• Feb. 12: Dow Jones Industrial Average closes at six-month high of 29,551.

• Feb. 14: A total of 15 cases are reported in seven U.S. states. Global cases total 67,100 with 1,526 deaths.

• Feb. 15: U.S. passengers on the cruise ship Diamond Princess are evacuated and quarantined. 

• Feb. 18: Iran confirms first case. 

• Feb. 21: A total of 30 cases are reported in eight U.S. states.

• Feb. 22: Middle Eastern countries begin closing borders with Iran and halting flights.

• Feb. 23: WHO issues its 34th report on the situation.

• Feb. 24: President Trump tweets, “The Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA… Stock Market starting to look very good to me!” 

• Feb. 25: DJIA loses 8.4 percent to close at 27,081. President Trump tells a business roundtable in India, “I think [the coronavirus is] a problem that’s going to go away.”

• Feb. 26: In a press briefing, President Trump says, “We’re going very substantially down, not up.”

• Feb. 27: During a White House reception, President Trump says, “One day it’s like a miracle, it will disappear.”

• Feb. 28: A total of 65 cases are reported in 10 U.S. states. After dropping to 25,409 on Feb. 25, the DJIA rebounds to 27,090.

• Feb. 29: The U.S. state of Washington issues the first State of Emergency declaration. Global cases total 86,604 with 2,977 deaths.


March 2020

• March 1: A total of 88 cases are reported in 12 U.S. states. First coronavirus death in United States is reported. 

• March 3: North Carolina reports its first case. 

• March 6: While touring a CDC facility in Atlanta, President Trump says, “I think we’re doing a really good job in this country at keeping it down… a tremendous job at keeping it down.”

• March 7: A total of 428 cases and 19 deaths are reported in 32 U.S. states.

• March 8: President Trump tweets, “We have a perfectly coordinated and fine tuned plan at the White House for our attack on Coronavirus.”

• March 9: President Trump tweets, “The Fake News media & their partner, the Democrat Party, is doing everything within its semi-considerable power to inflame the Coronavirus situation.”

• March 10: N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper declares a state of emergency. President Trump tells reporters on Capitol Hill, “It will go away. Just stay calm. It will go away.” Coachella festival slated for mid-April is postponed to October. 

• March 11: The National Basketball Association suspends its season after a player tests positive for coronavirus. Western Carolina University, in conjunction with the entire UNC system, moves all instruction online. 

• March 12: Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League both suspend their respective seasons. Buncombe County declares a state of emergency. Asheville’s Connect Beyond festival becomes the first major event to be canceled in WNC. The Asheville Symphony also cancels events. 

• March 13: President Trump declares a National Emergency. City of Asheville declares municipal state of emergency. MerleFest 2020, scheduled for April 23, is canceled. 

• March 14: A total of 2,898 cases and 57 deaths are reported in 49 U.S. states. Global cases total 156,475 with 5,833 deaths. Gov. Cooper closes K-12 public schools. 

• March 15: Haywood County declares a State of Emergency. 

• March 16: Jackson County declares a State of Emergency. Macon County announces first presumed case of coronavirus from a New York resident. 

• March 17: Gov. Cooper ends sit-down service at bars and restaurants, loosens restrictions on unemployment benefits. West Virginia becomes the last U.S. state to report a case. Macon County declares State of Emergency. Town of Highlands declares municipal State of Emergency.

• March 18: Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort closes through April 1. That closure is later extended to April 15. Cherokee County (not to be confused with the Qualla Boundary) announces first positive coronavirus test. 

• March 19: The media reports that Sen. Richard Burr, R-NC, sold 33 stocks worth between $628,033 and $1.7 million in mid-February following a briefing regarding the coronavirus. 

• March 20: Primary election runoff in North Carolina’s 11th Congressional District is moved from May 12 to June 23. 

• March 21: A total of 24,192 cases and 301 deaths are reported across all 50 U.S. states. Global cases total 304,979 with 13,011 deaths. Buncombe and Henderson counties announce first confirmed cases. Graham County declares State of Emergency. 

• March 23: DJIA hits six-month low of 18,591, a decrease of 36.6 percent from six-month high of 29,551 on Feb. 12. Jackson County issues a “Stay home, stay safe” order that also includes Dillsboro, Forest Hills, Sylva and Webster. Jackson County announces first positive case. 

• March 24: Gov. Cooper extends school closings to May 15. Waynesville suspends disconnections of water and electric service to municipal customers. Madison County announces “Shelter in place” order. Great Smoky Mountains National Park closes. Waynesville’s Folkmoot issues a statement warning that the 37th annual summer festival could be in jeopardy.

• March 25: North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services reports first coronavirus deaths in the state. Buncombe County issues “Stay home, stay safe” order. Town of Highlands issues “Stay home, stay safe” order discouraging visitors and implementing strong self-quarantine requirements for visitors. Principal Chief Richard Sneed issues a curfew order on the Qualla Boundary from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m.

• March 26: DJIA rebounds to 22,552, still 23.7 percent off six-month high. Haywood County issues a “Stay home, stay safe” order valid through April 16. Macon County and the town of Franklin do likewise, although the order does not affect the town of Highlands. 

• March 27: Gov. Cooper issues statewide “Stay home” order valid through April 29. The order supersedes county and city orders, which can still be more restrictive than the state’s order, but not less restrictive. The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians received notice of its first confirmed positive case of COVID-19. President Trump signs a $2 trillion stimulus package, the largest in U.S. history. Town of Andrews and Cherokee County both enact restrictions on lodging. Henderson County issues “Stay home, stay safe” order.

• March 28: A total of 123,978 cases and 2,220 deaths are reported in 49 U.S. states. Global cases total 663,127 with 30,861 deaths. Henderson County reports first case. 

• March 29: Buncombe County announces first coronavirus death. 

• March 30: Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians confirms first case on the Qualla Boundary. Clay County confirms first case. Swain and Jackson counties implement 14-day self-quarantine rules for visitors from out-of-state or out of the country. 

• March 31: Global cases total 802,541, with 592,059 cases reported as active and 30,416 (about 5 percent) reported as serious or critical. Of the 211,482 cases that reported an outcome, 172,438 people (82 percent) had recovered, and 39,044 had died, for a mortality rate among closed cases of 18 percent. North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services reports 1,498 cases in 77 counties, and 8 deaths. More than 23,100 people had been tested, and 157 remain hospitalized. With 84 percent of North Carolina hospitals reporting, 793 ICU beds remain empty out of a total of 3,223. Of the 17,572 inpatient beds reported, 7,024 remain empty. 

Sources: BBC, China CDC Weekly, Xinhua News Agency, South China Morning Post, C-SPAN,,, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Agence France Presse, World Health Organization,, CNBC, Fox News, North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, Jackson County government, Franklin Press, Blue Ridge Public Radio, Sylva Herald, Macon County News.

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