Here’s what was happening one year ago, when the pandemic became official
The coronavirus was hardly news on March 11, 2020. Stock market indexes had already begun a precipitous decline, and it was apparent that COVID-19, which Americans had largely ignored for the past few months, was going to have an impact on our lives.
But this was the day that everything became real in a hurry. Aptly, it was a rainy day along much of the eastern half of the U.S., as well as the southwest. And the news that morning that Harvey Weinstein had been sentenced to 23 years in prison for rape and sexual abuse seemed certain to be the day’s top headline.
Not even close.
Twelve months ago seems an eternity away at this point. To illustrate just how far we’ve come, we’re taking a look back at the news that made us realize life had made some very rapid and long-lasting changes.
Tax deadline changes
Reports began to circulate on the morning of March 11, 2020, that the IRS was considering pushing back the tax deadline. Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee were putting pressure on the tax agency at the time, writing that they were concerned about the agency’s ability to assist taxpayers and process returns in time for the deadline. The announcement of an extension wouldn’t come for another week.
Dr. Fauci testifies
Dr. Anthony Fauci, who had already become a familiar face at that point, was called to testify before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform. No one, including Fauci, wore a mask in the crowded room.
Asked about the seriousness of the virus, which had by then infected just over 1,000 people, Fauci told the committee, “Bottom line, it’s going to get worse.” Spoiler: He was right.
“How much worse we’ll get will depend on our ability to do two things,” Fauci continued. “To contain the influx of people who are infected coming from the outside, and the ability to contain and mitigate within our own country.”
WHO declares a pandemic
A little before 12:30 p.m. ET, the World Health Organization held its daily briefing on COVID-19, and it declared the world to be in a state of pandemic.
“WHO has been assessing this outbreak around the clock, and we are deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity, and by the alarming levels of inaction,” the group said. “We have therefore made the assessment that #COVID19 can be characterized as a pandemic.”
The Dow Jones industrial average plunged, falling over 1,200 points. By the end of the day, it had entered bear market territory, falling 1,465 points from the previous day’s close.
Crisis at the NBA
Just before the 8:00 p.m. ET tip-off of the Oklahoma City Thunder and Utah Jazz, coaches and referees gathered in a huddle that baffled viewers and play-by-play announcers. The teams then returned to their respective locker rooms.
The public address announcer soon told the crowd, “The game tonight has been postponed. You are all safe. Take your time in leaving the arena tonight, and do so in an orderly fashion.” Needless to say, the announcement did not calm people down.
Just prior to the game, Rudy Gobert, a center player for the Jazz, tested positive for COVID-19. Donovan Mitchell, his teammate who plays guard, also tested positive, people later learned.
By 9:46 p.m. ET that evening, the NBA suspended the season. “Do we send our kids to school tomorrow? Is it that big?” said Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban upon learning the news. “It’s like out of a movie. It doesn’t seem real.”
There wouldn’t be another professional basketball game until July 30.
Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson test positive
The NBA shook people, but it was an update from Tom Hanks that made the coronavirus very real for an even wider swath of people. The actor announced on Instagram that he and his wife, Rita Wilson, had tested positive for the virus and would go into isolation.
“Well, now. What to do next?” Hanks continued. “The Medical Officials have protocols that must be followed. We Hanks’ will be tested, observed, and isolated for as long as public health and safety requires. Not much more to it than a one-day-at-a-time approach, no?”
Trump addresses the nation
After spending weeks downplaying the seriousness of the virus, then-President Donald Trump announced plans for a primetime Oval Office address. During the address, he announced a 30-day ban on travel from Europe to the U.S. starting just two days later.
Trump said the restrictions wouldn’t apply to the United Kingdom, and there would be exemptions for “Americans who have undergone appropriate screenings.” He said the U.S. would monitor the situation to determine if travel could be reopened earlier.
The rest is history.
More health care and Big Pharma coverage from Fortune:
- One year later: 15 ways life has changed since the onset of the COVID pandemic
- The CDC says COVID vaccinated people can be indoors together. But will Americans take it too far?
- What most people get wrong about vaccine efficacy numbers
- COVID baby boom? Not so much—300,000 fewer births expected in 2021
- Fitbit’s first product since being acquired by Google is just for kids