CDC Museum COVID-19 Timeline

illustration of a coronavirus

This timeline provides information about select moments in the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States and around the world beginning from its known origins to today.

Late 2019

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    December 12, 2019

    A cluster of patients in Wuhan, Hubei Providence, China begin to experience shortness of breath and fever.

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    December 31, 2019

    The World Health Organization China Country Office is informed of a number cases of pneumonia of unknown etiology (unknown cause) detected in Wuhan, Hubei Province. All cases connected to the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan.

Early 2020

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    January 2, 2020

    The World Health Organization activates its incident management system across the three levels of WHO (country office, regional office, and headquarters).

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    January 5, 2020

    Chinese public health official share the genetic sequence of the unknown pneumonia virus (Wuhan-Hu-1) through an online database.

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    January 5, 2020

    CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (NCIRD) activates a Center Level Response for novel pneumonia of unknown etiology.

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    January 7, 2020

    Chinese authorities identify and isolate a novel coronavirus as the causative agent of the outbreak

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    January 7, 2020

    CDC establishes a 2019-nCoV Incident Management Structure to guide the response. It follows previously established MERS-CoV preparedness plans for developing tests and managing cases.

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    January 10, 2020

    CDC publishes information about the novel coronavirus on its website.

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    January 13, 2020

    The Thailand Ministry of Public Health confirms the first imported case of lab-confirmed novel coronavirus from China.

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    January 15, 2020

    The Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare reports an imported case of laboratory-confirmed novel coronavirus.

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    January 17, 2020

    CDC begins screening passengers on direct and connecting flights from Wuhan, China at San Francisco, California, New York City, New York, and Los Angeles, California and plans to expand screening to other major airports.

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    January 17, 2020

    CDC deploys a team to Washington state to assist with contact tracing efforts in response to the first reported case of 2019-nCOV in the U.S.

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    January 20, 2020

    CDC confirms the first U.S. laboratory-confirmed case of COVID-19 in the U.S. from samples taken on January 18 in Washington state.

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    January 21, 2020

    CDC transitions from a Center-led Incident Management Structure to an Agency-wide Structure and activates its Emergency Response System

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    January 21, 2020

    CDC artists Alissa Eckert and Dan Higgins create “an identity” for the novel coronavirus by designing the iconic red and white virus image.

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    January 22, 2020

    The World Health Organization International Health Regulation Emergency Committee meets. The Emergency Committee decides to not declare the novel coronavirus a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. The Committee decides instead to monitor the situation and reconvene in 10 days to re-discuss.

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    January 22, 2020

    The World Health Organization confirms human-to-human spread of the novel coronavirus.

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    January 27, 2020

    The United States Food and Drug Administration announces that it will take “critical actions to advance development of novel coronavirus medical countermeasures” with interagency partners, including CDC.

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    January 29, 2020

    The White House Coronavirus Task Force is established with U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary, Alex Azar, as the head of the Task Force.

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    January 31, 2020

    The World Health Organization International Health Regulation Emergency Committee reconvenes and declares the coronavirus outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.

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    January 31, 2020

    U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, Alex Azar, declares the SARS-CoV-2 virus a public health emergency and the White House 2019 Novel Coronavirus Task Force announces the implementation of new travel policies to be effective at 5:00 PM EST on February 2, 2020.

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    February 3, 2020

    CDC submits an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) PACK to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to expedite approval for the CDC developed SARS-CoV-2 diagnostic test.

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    February 4, 2020

    The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approves the Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) PACK for the CDC developed SARS-CoV-2 diagnostic test. CDC distributes 200 test kits through its Influenza Reagent Resource program to laboratories across the U.S.

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    February 8, 2020

    One of the first CDC test kits arrives at a public health laboratory in east Manhattan, New York City, New York. The laboratory reports that the test produces “untrustworthy results.”

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    February 11, 2020

    The World Health Organization announces the official name for the disease that is causing the 2019 novel coronavirus outbreak: COVID-19. The new name of this disease is an abbreviated version of coronavirus disease 2019.

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    February 23, 2020

    As Italy becomes a global COVID-19 hotspot, the Italian government issues Decree-Law No. 6 of February 23, 2020, containing Urgent Measures to Contain and manage the Epidemiological Emergency Caused by COVID-19, effectively locking down the country.

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    February 26, 2020

    CDC’s Dr. Nancy Messonnier, Incident Manager for the COVID-19 Response, holds a telebriefing. During the telebriefing she braces the U.S. for the eventual community spread of the novel coronavirus and states that the “disruption to everyday life may be severe.”

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    Feb 29 2020

    CDC updates its Criteria to Guide Evaluation and Testing of Patients Under Investigation (PUI) for COVID-19 to any patients with a severe respiratory illness even in the absence of travel history to affected areas or known exposure to another case to prepare for possible additional person-to-person spread.

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    February 29, 2020

    The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announces a “new policy…for certain laboratories that develop and begin to use validated COVID-19 diagnostics before the FDA has completed review of their Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) requests,” allowing laboratories to create tests to address testing shortages in the U.S.

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    March 1, 2020

    CDC creates COVID-NET by modifying existing respiratory virus surveillance networks that monitor for hospitalizations associated with influenza and Respiratory Syncytical Virus (RSV) to monitor for hospitalizations associated with COVID-19.

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    March 11, 2020

    The World Health Organization declares COVID-19 a pandemic.

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    March 12, 2020

    Confirmatory testing for COVID-19 by CDC is no longer required by the U.S, Food and Drug Administration

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    March 13, 2020

    President Donald J. Trump declares a nationwide emergency.

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    March 14, 2020

    CDC issues a “No Sail Order” to all cruise ships. The order calls for all cruise ships in waters that the U.S. has jurisdiction over to cease activity.

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    March 15, 2020

    U.S. states begin to shut down to prevent the spread of COVID-19. New York City public schools system (the largest school system in the U.S., with 1.1 million students) shuts down, while Ohio calls for restaurants and bars to close.

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    March 16, 2020

    CDC launches Clara bot, a COVID-19 symptom checker, on its website.

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    March 17, 2020

    First human trial of a vaccine to protect against pandemic COVID-19 begins in the U.S. at Kaiser Permanente research facility in Seattle, Washington. Moderna Therapeutics is the biotech company behind the vaccine.

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    March 26, 2020

    U.S. Senate passes the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act providing $2 trillion in aid to hospitals, small businesses, and state and local governments while including an elimination of the Medicare sequester from May to December 31, 2020.

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    March 28, 2020

    White House extends social distancing measures until the end of April 2020.

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    March 28, 2020

    U.S. Food and Drug Administration issues an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) to allow hydroxychloroquine sulfate and chloroquine phosphate products donated to the Strategic National Stockpile to be distributed and used for certain hospitalized patients with COVID-19.

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    March 28, 2020

    CDC distributes a Health Alert Network (HAN) warning against using chloroquine phosphate without the recommendation of a doctor or pharmacy after one person is seriously ill and another dies from ingesting non-pharmaceutical chloroquine phosphate (a chemical for aquarium use that is commercially available for purchase at stores or online) to prevent COVID-19.

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    March 31, 2020

    At a White House Press Briefing, Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Deborah Brix announce that 100,000 to 240,000 deaths in the U.S. are expected even if social distancing and public health measures are perfectly enacted.

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    April 3, 2020

    At a White House press briefing, CDC announces new mask wearing guidelines and recommends that all people wear a mask when outside of the home.

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    April 3, 2020

    CDC launches COVIDView, a weekly report that summarizes and interprets key indicators from a number of existing surveillance systems

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    April 6, 2020

    Hundreds of doctors and civil rights groups urge CDC and U.S. government to release race and ethnicity data on COVID-19 cases in order to ensure the proper response in black communities.

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    April 7, 2020

    A report from the Chicago Tribune notes that 68% of the COVID-19 related deaths in Chicago occur among the city’s African American community, illuminating racial disparities of the pandemic in the U.S.

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    April 8, 2020

    U.S. Health and Human Services announces first contract for ventilator production goes to General Motors under the Defense Production Act.

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    April 10, 2020

    The U.S. surpasses Italy as the global leader for reported deaths due to COVID-19 (23,036 deaths)

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    April 13, 2020

    Most U.S. states report widespread cases of COVID-19.

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    April 13, 2020

    At a White House press briefing, President Trump announces that the U.S. will cease funding to the World Health Organization, shaking the public health community during the pandemic.

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    April 26, 2020

    Clinicians in the United Kingdom note increased reports of previously healthy children presenting with severe inflammatory syndrome with Kawasaki disease-like features. The cases occurred in children testing positive for current or recent infection with SARS-CoV-2. This condition would later be known as Multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C), an inflammatory condition that affects children with COVID-19.

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    April 24, 2020

    Georgia, Alaska, and Oklahoma begin to partially reopen their states despite concerns from health experts saying it was too early to reopen.

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    April 30, 2020

    President Trump launches Operation Warp Speed, an initiavtive to produce a vaccine for the coronavirus as quick as possible with CDC as an integral member.

Mid 2020

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    May 1, 2020

    U.S. Food and Drug Administration issues an Emergency Use Authorization for investigational antiviral drug remdesivir for the treatment of suspected or laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 in adults and children hospitalized with severe disease

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    May 1, 2020

    CDC develops the PPE Burn Rate Calculator, a spreadsheet-based model that will help healthcare facilities plan and optimize the use of PPE for response to COVID-19, and publishes it on the Apple and Android App stores.

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    May 1, 2020

    CDC launches the SARS-CoV-2 Sequencing for Public Health Emergency Response, Epidemiology and Surveillance (SPHERES), a consortium to expand the use of whole genome sequencing of the COVID-19 virus.

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    May 2, 2020

    World Health Organization renews is emergency declaration from three months prior calling the pandemic a global health crisis.

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    May 8, 2020

    News media outlets report that top White House officials shelve CDC “Guidance for Implementing the Opening Up America Again Framework” that include detailed advice on how to safely reopen the country.

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    May 9, 2020

    U.S. unemployment rate at 14.7%, the worst rate since the Great Depression. With 20.5 million people out of work, hospitality, leisure, and healthcare industries taking the greatest hits. It is affecting low income and minority workers the most.

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    May 15, 2020

    CDC distributes an alert through the Health Alert Network describing multisystem inflammatory syndrome related to SARS-CoV-2 infection in children.

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    May 28, 2020

    United States coronavirus (COVID-19) death toll surpasses 100,000.

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    June 4, 2020

    U.S. Health and Human Services announces new laboratory date reporting guidance for COVID-19 testing to include demographic data on race, ethnicity, age, and sex.

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    June 8, 2020

    The World Bank states that COVID-19 will plunge the Global Economy into the worst recession since World War II.

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    June 24, 2020

    Three weeks prior, Black Lives Matter protests broke out across the country due to the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. Experts worried that it would lead to a spike in cases, but researchers release a report saying that it did not because the protests caused more people to stay home. The protests led to CDC rethinking its pandemic response to include a health equity framework.

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    June 25, 2020

    CDC expands list of people at risk for severe COVID-19 illness by removing the specific age threshold from the older adult classification, noting that risk increases with age. CDC also includes people with chronic kidney disease, COPD, obesity, immuncompromised from solid organ transplant, serious heart conditions, sickle cell disease, and type 2 diabetes are also at increased risk of severe COVID-19 illness.

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    July 23, 2020

    CDC releases new science-based resources and tolls for school administrators, teachers, parents, guardians, and caregivers for safe school reopening.

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    August 19 2020

    After CDC studies show that American Indians and Alaska Natives are among the racial and ethnic minority group at higher risk for severe COVID-19 outcomes, CDC provides more that $200 million in COVID-19 funding to Indian Country.

Late 2020

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    September 22, 2020

    United States coronavirus (COVID-19) death toll surpasses 200,000.

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    October 2, 2020

    President Trump tests positive for the coronavirus.

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    October 5, 2020

    White House outbreak continues as several aides and the press secretary test positive for the virus.

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    October 6, 2020

    Food insecurity among Americans will reach 52 million peole due to the coronavirus pandemic, a 17 million increase than prepandemic numbers.

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    October 7, 2020

    New Zealand declares itself virus free.

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    November 1, 2020

    CDC announces the end of the no sail order for cruise ship companies.

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    November 13, 2020

    Increased outbreaks are reported across the country due to large gatherings for Halloween.

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    November 3, 2020

    The U.S. presidential election occurs, with response to the COVID-19 pandemic response being one of the issues most debated.

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    December 3, 2020

    The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommends that health care professionals and residents of long-term care facilities be offered COVID-19 vaccine first in the initial phases of the COVID-19 vaccination program.

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    December 11, 2020

    Food and Drug Administration issues an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for the first COVID-19 vaccine – the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.

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    December 12, 2020

    The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) issues interim recommendation for the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in persons aged 16 years or older for the prevention of COVID-19.

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    December 14 2020

    United States coronavirus (COVID-19) death toll surpasses 300,000.

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    December 14, 2020

    Sandra Lindsay, a nurse in New York, becomes the first American outside a clinical trial to receive the OVID-19 vaccine.

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    December 18, 2020

    The U.S.Food and Drug Administration issues an Emergency Use Authorization for the second COVID-19 vaccine – the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.

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    December 19, 2020

    The Advisory Committee on Immunization practices (ACIP) issues an interim recommendation for the use of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine in persons aged 18 years or older for the prevention of COVID-19.

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    December 21, 2020

    U.S. Congress passes second COVID Relief Act which will now go to President Trump for approval or veto. This act promises $600 per individual.

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    December 24, 2020

    It is estimated that more than 1 million people in the U.S. are vaccinated against COVID-19.

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    December 30, 2020

    AstraZenica and University of Oxford’s vaccine approved for emergency use in the UK and will begin distribution in the New Year.

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    December 30, 2020

    First U.S. case of UK variant reported in the U.S.in Colorado.

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    December 31, 2020

    One year anniversary of first reported case to WHO.

Early 2021

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    January 7, 2021

    One year anniversary of CDC COVID-19 pandemic response.

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    January 8, 2021

    Amid vaccine shortages at Pfizer and Moderna, both companies, along with scientists at NIH, are looking at ways to double their supply to prevent future shortages.

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    January 18, 2021

    U.S COVID-19 death toll surpasses 400,000.

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    January 20, 2021

    One year anniversary of the first reported case of COVID-19 in the U.S. Snohomish County, Washington

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    January 25, 2021

    First U.S. case of Brazil variant of coronavirus reported in Minnesota.

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    January 26, 2021

    Worldwide COVID-19 cases surpass 100 million.

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    January 28, 2021

    First U.S. case of South African variant of coronavirus reported in South Carolina.

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    February 1, 2021

    At home tests to be put into distribution in the U.S.  by Australian company Ellume.

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    February 16, 2021

    Vaccine distribution disrupted in several states, including Texas, Missouri, Alabama, and New Hampshire due to severe winter storms.

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    February 21, 2021

    U.S.COVID-19 death toll surpasses 500,000.

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    February 27, 2021

    FDA approves emergency use authorization for Johnson and Johnson one shot COVID-19 vaccine.

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    March 8, 2021

    CDC announces that fully vaccinated people can gather indoors without masks.

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    March 11, 2021

    President Joseph Biden announces a federal vaccine website where users can find vaccines near them. He also directs all states, tribes, and territories to make all adults eligible for the vaccine by May 1st.

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    March 13, 2021

    U.S. surpasses 100 million vaccinations administered.

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    March 14, 2021

    Several countries, including Ireland, Iceland, Denmark, and Norway suspend dispensing AstaZeneca COVID vaccine over concerns of blood clotting.

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    March 18, 2021

    U.S. announces it will send 4 million doses of COVID vaccine to Mexico and Canada.

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    March 19, 2021

    CDC announces kids in school can socially distance from 3 feet instead of 6 feet.

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    April 2, 2021

    CDC announces fully vaccinated individuals can travel safely domestically in the U.S. without a COVID test first.

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    April 13, 2021

    CDC recommends pausing the use of the Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccine because of blood clot complications.

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    April 21, 2021

    U.S. surpasses 200 million vaccinations administered.

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    April 23, 2021

    CDC recommends continued use of Johnson and Johnson vaccine for people 18 and older.

Page last reviewed: August 4, 2021