The coronavirus pandemic: A look back at the virus that has changed the world

The coronavirus evolved from a back page story about an outbreak in Wuhan in January to a global pandemic that has ravaged the U.S. — with 20 million cases and 346,687 deaths here — sparked massive unemployment, canceled countless events and changed nearly every part of society in 2020.
While the virus keeps surging and hospitals fill up with patients, there is some light at the end of the tunnel with the COVID-19 vaccine rollout ramping up in the new year.
Here’s a look back at the coronavirus timeline across the world, U.S. and Massachusetts in 2020:
Reports in mid-January started to emerge out of China about a new virus that had sickened hundreds and killed three patients. The novel coronavirus, a new form of viral pneumonia, appeared to have originated in the city of Wuhan. Nearly 12 months later, there have been more than 80 million cases and nearly 2 million virus deaths around the world.
The first U.S. coronavirus case was confirmed on Jan. 21. A Washington state man who recently returned from a trip to China was diagnosed with the virus. Since then, the U.S. has tallied 19.6 million cases and 340,000 coronavirus deaths — both the most in the world.
Massachusetts’ first case was identified on Feb. 1, a UMass Boston student in his 20s returning from Wuhan. Cases have since ballooned across the Bay State, with more than 360,000 cases at the end of the year. The state’s total COVID-19 death toll has surpassed 12,000.
Once cases started spreading in the U.S. and in several countries, U.S. stocks started to plummet to historic drops in February as fears of a long-term coronavirus downturn and global recession mounted.
Then the infamous Biogen meeting in Boston happened in late February, helping fuel the U.S. spread. The Cambridge-based company in early March started announcing that employees had tested positive after attending the conference at the Boston Marriott Long Wharf. That meeting has now reportedly led to as many as 300,000 cases around the world.
Cases started climbing in Massachusetts and in mid-March, Gov. Charlie Baker declared a state of emergency and a sweeping set of restrictions, including shutting down schools and banning people from eating out at restaurants. The restrictions have sparked several protests at the State House and outside Baker’s home.
Grocery stores had long lines and empty shelves as people stocked up, and supermarkets had strict capacity limits. Residents have been urged to stay home and not gather, and people have been working from home — deserting highways, public transportation and cities.
A deadly coronavirus outbreak hit the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home, which led to firings and investigations. The facility has reported 77 veteran deaths since the pandemic started. Nursing homes and long-term care facilities have been hard hit by the pandemic. Out of the 12,218 virus deaths in Massachusetts, 7,291 have been reported in long-term care facilities.
City and state officials issued mask orders, requiring everyone in public wear masks. Masks are required at all times inside supermarkets and retail stores.
States across the country have run massive testing programs during the pandemic. Nearly 250 million tests have been administered in the U.S., including more than 10 million tests in Massachusetts.
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President Trump’s positive diagnosis sent the country and world spinning in early October, after he attended maskless events at the White House. He was hospitalized at Walter Reed Medical Center, where he received experimental treatments.
Pfizer and Cambridge-based Moderna have led the pack in producing an effective COVID-19 vaccine. The FDA gave the OK in December, and the vaccination rollout started a couple days later. Health-care workers and those in nursing homes have been prioritized in Massachusetts, and eventually the vaccine will be available for the general public, a light at the end of the tunnel in 2021.

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