Three months and 50,000 deaths: the defining Covid-19 moments in the US timeline

From grim milestones to record unemployment rates and protests against stay-at-home orders, the pandemic has upended life across the US

In just three months, Covid-19 has upended life in the US, ravaging cities and businesses and overwhelming hospitals woefully unprepared. What started as a single infection in Washington state ballooned until the US became the global hotspot for Covid-19, with exponentially more confirmed cases than any other nation.

Mixed messages from Donald Trump and his administration have caused confusion over when or if Americans will return to life as usual. Squabbles between the president, governors and mayors have inspired headlines as critics assail missed chances to contain the virus.

Now, the US has passed another grim milestone, 50,000 Covid-related deaths, while closing in on 1m confirmed cases, according to Johns Hopkins University.More than 26 million are out of work and protesters are demanding an end to stay-at-home orders, even as experts say such rallies could make outbreaks worse.

These are the defining moments from the US under Covid-19 so far.

21 January

The US confirms its first case of Covid-19, after a 35-year-old man who lives north of Seattle returns from Wuhan, China. A day later, Trump tells CNBC: Its one person coming in from China, and we have it under control.

29 January

The White House announces a taskforce to monitor, contain and mitigate the spread of the virus.

30 January

The World Health Organization (WHO) labels the outbreak a public health emergency of international concern. But Trump continues to downplay it, telling a crowd in Iowa: We only have five people. Hopefully, everythings going to be great.

Donald Trump holds a campaign rally in Des Moines, Iowa, on 30 January. Photograph: Leah Millis/Reuters

31 January

Alex Azar, secretary of health and human services, declares a public health emergency. Trump restricts travel from China, a decision that he later claims, erroneously, saved hundreds of thousands of lives.

5 February

After becoming the third president to be impeached, Trump is acquitted by the Republican-controlled Senate.

6 February

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) ships coronavirus testing kits to labs, but early tests are contaminated, handicapping the response. The US experiences its first known death from Covid-19, in California, though it will not be identified and reported as such for months.

24 February

The economy shows signs of free fall, even as Trump tweets: Stock Market starting to look very good to me! His administration asks Congress for $2.5bn to pay for vaccine development and protective equipment.

26 February

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announces that a patient in California has tested positive for Covid-19, potentially the first US case where the source of infection is unknown. At Life Care Center, a nursing home outside Seattle, two residents contract the virus. Dozens will succumb. Trump taps Mike Pence to lead the coronavirus response.

A woman talks on the phone to her mother as they look at each other through a window at the Life Care Center of Kirkland in Washington on 8 March. Photograph: David Ryder/Reuters

29 February

The US makes public what is then believed to be its first Covid-related death, a man in his 50s. The case is in Washington state, ground zero for the virus. Trump restricts travel from Iran.

6 March

Trump signs an $8.3bn aid bill that receives near-unanimous support in Congress. He says: Anybody that wants a test can get a test, a claim that confuses Americans and hamstrings healthcare workers.

11 March

TheWHO redefines the outbreak as a pandemic. Trump restricts travel from Europe, excluding the UK. Days later, he announces a bar on travel from the UK and Ireland.

12 March

Broadway closes and the NCAA cancels March Madness. The US has more than 1,600 confirmed coronavirus cases, across almost every state.

13 March

Trump declares a national emergency, the same day Washington state orders its schools closed.

18 March

Trump signs a second coronavirus relief bill.

An empty Times Square in New York, New York, on 19 March. Photograph: Lucas Jackson/Reuters

19 March

Californians must stay at home to curtail the spread of the virus. A day later, New York issues a similar order, beginning a war of words between Trump and a number of governors.

24 March

Trump tells Fox News he would love to have the country opened up and just raring to go by Easter, 12 April. He faces immediate criticism.

26 March

The US reports its first 1,000 deaths. The next day, Trump signs a $2.2tn stimulus package that includes a $1,200 check for many Americans. Trump later takes heat for making sure the checks, intended to help struggling workers during catastrophic levels of unemployment, bear his signature during an election year.

28 March

The US death toll doubles, to more than 2,000, in just two days.

Temperatures are taken at a control point on a footbridge at the Dell Deton medical center in Austin, Texas, on 25 March. Photograph: Eric Gay/Associated Press

31 March

In a significant shift in tone, exactly a week after he floated the idea of reopening the country by Easter, Trump says our country is in the midst of a great national trial, unlike any we have ever faced before.

3 April

The CDC recommends all Americans wear face coverings in public after weeks of suggesting otherwise. New Yorks mayor warns that D-Day is looming as hospitals struggle to find personal protective equipment, ventilators, beds and staff.

13 April

Trump claims total authority over the states, saying: The president of the United States calls the shots. He is challenged by governors, who say he does not have the constitutional right to reopen the country without their involvement.

17 April

Two days after thousands of protesters in Michigan gathered to decry their states stay-at-home order, Trump tweets to LIBERATE MINNESOTA, LIBERATE MICHIGAN and LIBERATE VIRGINIA. Protesters in other states follow suit.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/apr/25/us-coronavirus-timeline-trump-cases-deaths

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