RSI COVID-19 Timeline

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    The following timeline was created by the RSI Perception and Communication team. It focusses more on the perception and communication aspects of the pandemic though all statements are, to the best of the team’s knowledge, based on evidence and verified dates, places and people.


    Risk Sciences International 2
    Sat Nov 16 2019
    Early in the pandemic, Covid-19 is identified as viral pneumonia

    Known later: France had Covid-19 in November, hospital says after analysis of chest scans

    Covid-19 cases in France have now been dated back to as early as November 16, nearly 10 weeks before the country’s first confirmed cases of the disease were thought to have occurred, according to a French hospital. The November case was identified by the hospital’s medical imaging department after carrying out a retrospective study on about 2,500 chest scans performed between November 1 and April 30.
    Sun Dec 1 2019

    Silent Killer?

    Officially, the first human cases of COVID-19 were first reported by officials in Wuhan City, China, in December 2019. Retrospective investigations by Chinese authorities have identified human cases with onset of symptoms in early December 2019. Many of the initial patients were either stall owners, market employees, or regular visitors to this market. Environmental samples taken from this market in December 2019 tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, further suggesting that the market in Wuhan City was the source of this outbreak or played a role in the initial amplification of the outbreak. Source: WHO.

    Mon Dec 30 2019
    Mon Dec 30 2019
    Dr Li Wenliang, the earliest to sound the Covid-19 alarm, during a BBC interview

    Dr. Li Wenliang alerts of SARS-like illness

    On Dec 30, 2019, Li Wenliang sent a message to a group of fellow doctors warning them about a possible outbreak of an illness that resembled severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in Wuhan, Hubei province, China, where he worked. Meant to be a private message, he encouraged them to protect themselves from infection. Days later, he was summoned to the Public Security Bureau in Wuhan and made to sign a statement in which he was accused of making false statements that disturbed the public order.

    Source: The Lancet

    Tue Dec 31 2019
    Tue Dec 31 2019
    World Health Organization (WHO) logo

    China alerts WHO

    On 31 December 2019, the WHO China Country Office was informed of cases of pneumonia of unknown etiology (unknown cause) detected in Wuhan City, Hubei Province of China. As of 3 January 2020, a total of 44 patients with pneumonia of unknown etiology have been reported to WHO by the national authorities in China. Of the 44 cases reported, 11 are severely ill, while the remaining 33 patients are in stable condition. According to media reports, the concerned market in Wuhan was closed on 1 January 2020 for environmental sanitation and disinfection.

    The causal agent has not yet been identified or confirmed. On 1 January 2020, WHO requested further information from national authorities to assess the risk.

    National authorities report that all patients are isolated and receiving treatment in Wuhan medical institutions. The clinical signs and symptoms are mainly fever, with a few patients having difficulty in breathing, and chest radiographs showing invasive lesions of both lungs.

    According to the authorities, some patients were operating dealers or vendors in the Huanan Seafood market. Based on the preliminary information from the Chinese investigation team, no evidence of significant human-to-human transmission and no health care worker infections have been reported.

    Source: W.H.O.


    Wed Jan 1 2020
    Tue Jan 7 2020

    Canadians first advised not to worry based on current data

    “There has been no evidence to date that this illness, whatever it’s caused by, is spread easily from person to person; no health care workers caring for the patients have become ill; a positive sign.” Theresa Tam, Chief Public Health Officer of Canada. Dr. Tam later revised her recommendations.

    Tue Jan 7 2020

    China declares virus is new

    The first identifier is 2019-nCoV

    Wed Jan 8 2020
    CDC logo

    CDC issues clinician alert

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is closely monitoring a reported cluster of pneumonia of unknown etiology (PUE) with possible epidemiologic links to a large wholesale fish and live animal market in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China. An outbreak investigation by local officials is ongoing in China; the World Health Organization (WHO) is the lead international public health agency. Currently, there are no known U.S. cases nor have cases been reported in countries other than China. CDC has established an Incident Management Structure to optimize domestic and international coordination if additional public health actions are required.

    This HAN Advisory informs state and local health departments and health care providers about this outbreak and requests that health care providers ask patients with severe respiratory disease about travel history to Wuhan City. Wuhan City is a major transportation hub about 700 miles south of Beijing with a population of more than 11 million people.

    Source: CDC

    Sat Jan 11 2020
    Sun Jan 12 2020

    China shares genetic sequence of novel coronavirus

    In record time, China openly shares genetic sequence of the virus.

    Mon Jan 13 2020
    Fri Jan 17 2020
    Despite Covid, airports such as IAD compressed passengers

    Public health screenings begin at SFO and other airports

    In coming days, the screening process results in backups that create an even more dangerous environment with thousands crowding into great physical proximity. The image shown here was taken in Chicago.

    Tue Jan 21 2020
    Thu Jan 23 2020
    Thu Jan 23 2020
    Thu Jan 23 2020
    Fri Jan 24 2020
    Fri Jan 24 2020
    Sat Jan 25 2020

    First identified presumptive case of COVID-19 in Canada

    On January 25, the first identified presumptive case in Canada was a male in his 50s who travelled between Wuhan and Guangzhou before returning to Toronto on January 22. Canada issued a travel advisory against non-essential travel to China due to the outbreak, including a regional travel advisory to avoid all travel to the province of Hubei. Federal health officials stated that the risk in Canada was low. Final testing conducted at the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg, Manitoba confirmed the presumptive case on January 27. On January 29, Dr. Theresa Tam told Canadians that “It’s going to be rare (Covid 19), but we are expecting cases.”

    Mon Jan 27 2020
    Wed Jan 29 2020

    U.S.A. and Japan begin citizens’ evacuation from Wuhan

    A total of 195 passengers arrive in California from Wuhan.

    Thu Jan 30 2020
    Thu Jan 30 2020
    Thu Jan 30 2020
    World Health Organization (WHO) logo

    W.H.O. declares ‘Public Health Emergency of International Concern’

    This is a formal declaration by the World Health Organization (WHO) of “an extraordinary event which is determined to constitute a public health risk to other States through the international spread of disease and to potentially require a coordinated international response”, formulated when a situation arises that is “serious, sudden, unusual or unexpected”, which “carries implications for public health beyond the affected state’s national border” and “may require immediate international action”. Under the 2005 International Health Regulations (IHR), states have a legal duty to respond promptly to a PHEIC. The declaration is publicized by an IHR Emergency Committee (EC) of international experts, which was developed following the SARS outbreak in 2002–03.

    Since 2009, there have been six PHEIC declarations: the 2009 H1N1 (or swine flu) pandemic, the 2014 polio declaration, the 2014 outbreak of Ebola in Western Africa, the 2015–16 Zika virus epidemic, the ongoing 2018–20 Kivu Ebola epidemic, and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The recommendations are temporary and require reviews every three months.

    Fri Jan 31 2020

    Italy declares six-month emergency

    Prime Minister Conte gave an excessively optimistic message reassuring Italians that the country was well prepared for a public health emergency.

    Fri Jan 31 2020
    Sun Feb 2 2020
    Sun Feb 2 2020
    Sun Feb 2 2020
    Mon Feb 3 2020
    By May 2020 economies, including China, are struggling

    China stock market collapse

    Chinese stocks suffered their biggest one-day sell-off since 2015 on Monday, as anxiety continued about the economic fallout from the coronavirus epidemic.

    The Shenzen Component index (399001.SZ) fell 11.6% and the Shanghai Composite index (000001.SS) dropped 7.7%.

    Source: Yahoo Finance

    Wed Feb 5 2020
    In May 2020, the Diamond Princess cruise ship enters quarantine due to on-board Covid-19 outbreak

    February 5 – cruise ship in quarantine

    More than 3,600 passengers are quarantined on the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Yokohama, Japan. A large number of passengers test positive and the ship attracts global media attention.

    Thu Feb 6 2020

    First U.S.A. death (initially believed to be Feb. 29)

    The earliest known U.S. death from COVID-19 occurred on February 6 in Santa Clara County, California, in a 57-year-old woman who died from complications caused by coronavirus which apparently led to a ruptured heart. This case was only confirmed months later, posthumously from tissue samples taken by the county coroner and sent to the CDC for testing, with infection estimated to have occurred several weeks earlier, in what has now been established as already at that early date being untraceable community-based spread, passed between people in the United States.

    Fri Feb 7 2020

    Aircraft from Wuhan lands at CFB Trenton, Ontario, Canada

    Risk Sciences International 1On February 2, the Canadian Armed Forces announced that it planned to charter a plane to assist in the evacuation of Canadian nationals still in Wuhan once given authorization by China, intending to fly them to CFB Trenton for repatriation and medical screenings. Only those that had entered China with a Canadian passport would be allowed to take this flight. The first plane landed at CFB Trenton on February 7. Later, on February 21, a chartered flight of 131 Canadians who were quarantined aboard Diamond Princess after an outbreak on the cruise ship in Japan, and who all tested negative for the virus, were brought to CFB Trenton for additional screening before being transported by bus to the NAV Centre in Cornwall, Ontario to be quarantined.

    Fri Feb 7 2020

    Whistleblower Dr. Li Wenliang dies

    Just over one month after announcing the presence of the new virus to the world, Dr. Li Wenliang dies of COVID-19 complications.

    Tue Feb 11 2020

    W.H.O. names disease ‘COVID-19’

    On 11 February, following the World Health Organization (WHO) best practices for naming of new human infectious diseases, WHO has named the disease, COVID-19, short for “coronavirus disease 2019.”

    Tue Feb 11 2020
    Fri Feb 21 2020
    Sun Feb 23 2020


    February 23 marks the beginning of multiple regional and national lockdowns starting with Italy’s lockdown which made the headlines worldwide.

    Sun Feb 23 2020
    Wed Feb 26 2020
    President Trump with Vice-President Pence

    V.P. Pence announced as lead of U.S.A. Coronavirus Task Force

    President Trump taps Vice President Mike Pence to lead the coronavirus task force in a moment of growing pressure. Stocks are dropping and President Trump needs to show he is elevating the federal response to the pandemic.

    A former Trump White House aide says Pence was the obvious choice, one of the few people left in the administration that Trump trusts, and someone with the stature to coordinate across agencies.

    It is the first truly high-profile ongoing assignment Pence has taken on for Trump and it represents both an opportunity and a risk for the former Indiana governor.

    Sat Feb 29 2020

    Initially thought to be first U.S.A. death

    Was later revised earlier to Feb. 6, 2020.

    Wed Mar 4 2020

    Canada announces Cabinet Committee

    During a visit to a Quebec electric-vehicle company, Prime Minister Trudeau announces the creation of a Cabinet Committee on the federal response to the coronavirus disease, chaired by Chrystia Freeland, “to limit the spread of the virus” and to protect “the health and safety of all Canadians.”

    Fri Mar 6 2020
    Tue Mar 10 2020
    Wed Mar 11 2020
    Wed Mar 11 2020
    Wed Mar 11 2020

    Canada announces response fund

    Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announces a $1 billion response fund, including $500 million to go to provinces and territories, a $50 million contribution to the World Health Organization and an additional $275 million to fund COVID-19 research in Canada. Though small in comparison to later U.S. efforts, this commitment comes early in the pandemic and shows a commitment by Canada to challenge the spread of the disease.

    Thu Mar 12 2020
    Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announces his quarantine via Twitter in March 2020

    Prime Minister Trudeau announces self-quarantine

    Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted that he would self quarantine after his wife Sophie Grégoire tested positive for COVID-19.

    Fri Mar 13 2020

    Canadian Parliament to work from home

    Canadian Parliament agrees unanimously to shut its doors for five weeks because of COVID-19 signaling that the threat of COVID is being recognized at the highest levels of government.

    Fri Mar 13 2020
    Fri Mar 13 2020
    Official RSI logo

    RSI announces temporary office closure

    Informed by its own risk assessment, Risk Sciences International decides to close the Ottawa office and asks all staff to work from home.

    Tue Mar 17 2020
    Tue Mar 17 2020
    During March 2020, cases of Covid-19 in the U.S. creep up slowly

    COVID-19 is confirmed in all 50 U.S.A. States

    By today, March 17, the novel coronavirus outbreak in the United States had grown to at least 6,510 cases in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. There are outbreak clusters in New York , Washington State and California, according to Johns Hopkins University, which is tracking reports and confirming them with local health departments.


    Tue Mar 17 2020
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    District of Columbia and region start lockdown

    Despite downplaying by Federal authorities, the Mayor of Washington D.C. and the governors of Maryland and Virginia agree to a shutdown.

    Very quickly, signs begin appearing in stores throughout the Capital District region. At this point, many stores believe that they will be closed for only one or two weeks and say so in their signs. This will soon change.

    The closing of the Capital region goes viral and sends a signal to the rest of the world despite the President’s belittling of the crisis.

    Fri Mar 20 2020
    Cover of French newspaper Le Parisien on 20 March 2020 as the Covid-19 lockdown began

    French quarantine consideration questioned

    Three days after the French Government imposes a national quarantine, citizens seem to be ignoring it nationwide. The press begins to cover it and creates a shaming movement that ultimately results, along with mortality figures, to reverse the trend.

    Sat Mar 21 2020
    Tue Mar 24 2020
    Thu Mar 26 2020
    Fri Mar 27 2020
    Rush hour in Bethesda during COVID

    Deserted streets during rush hour

    Photo taken on a Friday morning during what would normally be rush hour, outside the NIH offices in Bethesda, MD. This main thoroughfare would normally be bumper to bumper. Today it is deserted.

    Fri Mar 27 2020
    Tue Mar 31 2020

    Canadian jobs being lost

    The unemployment figures for the month of March were that the economy had shed 1,000,000 jobs, pushing the official jobless rate to 7.8%.

    Tue Mar 31 2020
    Wed Apr 1 2020
    RSI April 1 2020 graph of Covid-19 deaths in selected countries

    Four country comparison — 1 April 2020

    Countries outside of China are still in denial. They see their numbers rising but are not conscious of the curve the are about to embark on in coming weeks. By now lockdown is being taken seriously, but was it perhaps too late?

    Wed Apr 1 2020
    By May 2020, it was evident that general populations were grateful to the work of essential workers

    Thanking front line workers

    Throughout April and May, worldwide, people are thanking front line workers for their efforts

    Wed Apr 8 2020
    Wed Apr 8 2020
    Flights out of Wuhan resume on April 8 2020

    Wuhan lifts lockdown

    Wuhan, China, lifted travel restrictions on April 8 after an 11-week lockdown that put the city in a virtual quarantine — not allowing people to leave or enter the city — in an effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

    The city, where the coronavirus outbreak was first reported, began its lockdown Jan. 23. As restrictions were lifted, thousands made their way to the airport, train station or cars to leave the city. Others began to resume their daily lives again amid the new normal following the coronavirus outbreak in China.

    To date, there have been 3,213 deaths in Hubei Province, where Wuhan is located, from over 64,800 reported cases, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

    Thu Apr 9 2020

    Canada releases new future estimates

    The Canadian government releases modeling that, even with strong public health measures, shows between 11,000 and 22,000 deaths over the course of the pandemic, with that number being closer to 300,000 deaths if no measures had been taken. Trudeau warns that “normality as it was before will not come back full-on until we get a vaccine for this”, and that residents will “have to remain vigilant for at least a year.”

    Sat Apr 11 2020
    Tue Apr 14 2020
    Wed Apr 15 2020
    Protests break out across the U.S.A. as some defy lockdown orders

    Protests to accelerate reopening begin in U.S.A.

    In the capital cities of Michigan, Kentucky, and North Carolina, hundreds of conservatives staged mass protests on Wednesday against social distancing orders—and top right-wing media figures are cheering them on. Despite coronavirus causing over 30,000 deaths in America alone, the pro-Trump and largely mask-less protesters, some of whom flew Confederate flags and open-carried AR-15 and AK-47 variants, gathered to demand an end to outbreak-reduction efforts and a premature return to normalcy.

    Wed Apr 15 2020
    RSI April 15 2020 graph of Covid-19 deaths in selected countries

    Four country comparison — 15 April 2020

    Numbers are not where they will be in one month, on 15 May, but they are quickly accelerating, to the point of being highly disturbing. By now, the U.S.A. has surpassed 25,000 dead.

    Mon Apr 20 2020

    Georgia begins wave of reopening announcements

    Some governors in the South have begun loosening restrictions put in place to contain the spread of coronavirus despite not having met the Federal Government’s recommendations including a two-week decline in new cases.

    On April 20, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp granted businesses across the state permission to reopen later this week, an announcement echoed by a handful of other Republican governors who are beginning to lift stay-at-home orders.

    Kemp’s decision, which will apply to barbershops, gyms and other businesses that include close contact, comes days after President Donald Trump issued guidelines to reopen state economies. Protesters across the country have been gathering at rallies outside state capitals demanding an end to shutdown orders.

    Sun Apr 26 2020
    Anti-lockdown Covid-19 protest in Vancouver May 22, 2020

    Reopening protests spread to Canada

    Approximately one week after protests broke out in the U.S.A., people take to the streets in Vancouver, B.C., to demand reopening the economy.

    Fri May 1 2020
    RSI May 1 2020 graph of Covid-19 deaths in selected countries

    Four country comparison — 1 May 2020

    By May 1, deaths and cases have stabilized in China. The U.S. is far and away leading in cases and deaths. For the size of the country, Spain, as well as Italy and France, are now suffering. Canada is affected but able to keep numbers per capita reasonably low.

    Fri May 1 2020
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    Social distancing becomes the norm

    Social distancing signage has begun replacing the closing signs. This includes restaurant signs offering curbside service and signs preventing people from entering a public space without a face mask.

    Mon May 4 2020

    Some Canadian provinces begin to reopen

    Several provinces began to slowly loosen lockdown restrictions on Monday as Ottawa pledged CDN $850 million for the international fight against COVID-19.

    Quebec, which accounts for more than half of Canada’s coronavirus cases, including deaths from the illness, was reopening retail stores outside Montreal while those in the greater Montreal area are to reopen next Monday.

    Ontario, the other virus epicentre, was allowing a few mostly seasonal businesses to reopen, including garden centres with curbside pickups, lawn care and landscaping companies, and automatic car washes.

    Some believe that this reopening is premature.

    Tue May 5 2020
    Fri May 15 2020
    RSI May 15 2020 graph of Covid-19 deaths in selected countries

    Four country comparison – 15 May 2020

    Clearly, the U.S.A. has far outpaced all other countries, regardless of population size. By now, the United States is both first in cases and deaths with, by May 15, 2020, over 85,000 dead. All indications at this time are that the U.S.A. will surpass 100,000 dead by the end of the month.

    Thu May 21 2020
    Early on, President Trump praises Chinese President Xi for their response

    President Trump thanks China for transparency

    In a series of tweets praising China, President Trump expressed his appreciation of China’s transparency.

    Fri May 22 2020
    Scheduling of masses continued in the early days of the Covid-19 outbreak

    CDC issues new guidelines for faith gatherings in the U.S.A.

    Following on President Trump’s appeal to reopen places of faith, CDC issues new guidelines. There is fear that his encouragement to gather will rekindle the pandemic in the country. This said, others are wondering why places of faith are any different from other business that are being encouraged to open.

    Fri May 22 2020

    Worldwide, deaths pass 333,333

    Today, the world’s COVID-19 death toll passed a numerical milestone.

    Fri May 22 2020

    Lancet publishes Hydroxychloroquine study dispelling its effectiveness

    A large-scale study suggests chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine don’t help treat COVID-19, and it may even be harmful. Today, the peer-reviewed journal The Lancet published a paper analyzing data from thousands of patients who took the drugs. Their patients’ outcomes were no better than those of people who didn’t take hydroxychloroquine — in fact, they were more likely to die or develop an irregular heartbeat.

    Source: The Lancet


    Mon May 25 2020

    George Floyd death

    The death of George Floyd, under the knee of an arresting officer in Minneapolis, U.S.A., kicks off weeks of protest across the nation and the world. Epidemiologists fear that the ensuing mass demonstrations will contribute to a re-energizing of the spread of COVID-19.

    Wed May 27 2020
    Map of U.S. deaths as the country passes the 100,000 mark during the Covid-19 outbreak

    U.S.A. deaths pass the 100,000 mark

    Today, at 5:50 PM, Johns Hopkins University announced that, based on people tested, the U.S.A. had suffered 100,047 deaths from COVID-19

    Fri May 29 2020

    D.C. starts to reopen

    Mayor Muriel Bowser announced that today marked the progressive reopening of the District of Columbia. Among the first reprieves was the opening of outdoor restaurant terraces, indoor seating is still forbidden.

    Mon Jun 1 2020
    Silver Diner in Bethesda, MD showing signs of reopening during the Covid-19 outbreak

    Terrace dining

    As part of the U.S.A.’s progressive reopening, D.C. has authorized terrace eating. Silver Diner, among others, have started promoting their partial doorreopening.

    As part of their effort to reassure guests, Silver Diner has published a comprehensive background paper here.

    Sun Jun 7 2020
    Mon Jun 8 2020
    Mon Jun 8 2020
    On June 8, WHO making an important announcement about asymptomatic transmission of Covid-19

    W.H.O. announces that asymptomatic transmission is rare

    W.H.O. today confused the world by announcing that asymptomatic transmission is rare after months of telling everyone that masks are critical to the stop of the spread. The W.H.O. announcement also failed to explain if there was a greater risk for pre-symptomatic transmission.

    Mon Jun 8 2020

    New Zealand declares itself COVID-free

    Today, the government of New Zealand officially announced that, as of yesterday, there were no more known cases of COVID-19 anywhere in New Zealand. All efforts would now turn to controlling the entry of new cases from abroad.

    Tue Jun 9 2020
    Wed Jun 10 2020
    Dr. Anthony Fauci during Covid-19 briefing at The White House

    Dr. Anthony Fauci disagrees with W.H.O. asymptomatic announcement

    Dr. Fauci announced his disagreement with W.H.O.’s June 8 announcement that there was insufficient data to determine that COVID-19 is highly spread by asymptomatic people causing continued confusion.

    Thu Jun 11 2020
    Mon Jun 15 2020


    Both in the United States and Brazil, the two countries with the highest COVID-19 infections and deaths worldwide, premature reopenings have led to a sharp reversal of the national curves. In both countries, high records are being set, notably in the U.S. southern states.

    Tue Jun 16 2020

    “Don’t let your guard down”

    Widespread global calls are growing for citizens, businesses, and governments to be weary of letting their guard down. For example, southern U.S. states are showing alarming signs of substantially increasing numbers following early re-opening. To make the point, today, the W.H.O. announced that for the past two weeks, there have been over 100,000 new cases daily worldwide.

    Sat Jun 20 2020

    Trump holds campaign rally in Tulsa

    Despite widespread objection, the Trump campaign held a large indoor rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, just as Tulsa County infections are spiking. Authorities fear this will be a super-spreader event.

    Sun Jun 21 2020

    Spain reopens borders with EU

    The Spanish state of emergency began March 14, 2020.

    Sun Jun 21 2020
    Flag of Brazil

    Brazil reaches 1 million infected

    As of today, Brazil and the U.S.A. are the only two countries to pass the one million infected mark.



    The charts below are provided courtesy of Our World in Data.


    The charts shown below are set on a country or date by default. Either of these can be changed directly on the graph. Also, on some graphs, you may be able to switch to a map or the orginal data source.

    Chart preset: Canada | Tests | Cases | Deaths

    Chart preset: World | Deaths per capita (per million people)

    Chart preset: World | Deaths per region

    Chart preset: World | Testing per capita

    Chart preset: Multiple countries | Daily vs. total confirmed deaths