It’s Been a Long Time Since the World Learned of COVID on New Year’s Eve 2019

The COVID-19 pandemic not only sickened and killed people, it closed restaurants, emptied out the schools and stressed many residents who had to adjust to being confined to their homes. (Sources: UAB and Tom Gordon)

December 31, 2019: The Chinese office of the World Health Organization reported pneumonia cases with an unknown origin in victims who had connections to a fish market in the city of Wuhan.

January 7, 2020: Chinese health officials isolate and identify the coronavirus as the cause of the Wuhan illnesses.

January 18, 2020: The first case of the virus was found in samples in Washington state. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed the case two days later.

January 29, 2020: President Donald Trump establishes a White House Coronavirus Task Force.

January 31, 2020: Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar declares the virus as a public health emergency and calls for new travel policies beginning February 2. The WHO declares an international public health emergency the same day.

February 11, 2020: The coronavirus gets its name — COVID-19, short for coronavirus disease 2019.

March 11, 2020: The WHO officially declared COVID-19 as a pandemic. That same day, an NBA player tests positive for COVID-19 shortly before a scheduled game. The game is called off shortly before the schedule tip-off, and the league suspends all play indefinitely.

March 12, 2020: March Madness comes to a screeching halt, as the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s post-season basketball tournaments are suspended, then cancelled outright. Professional sports leagues, including the NBA, National Hockey League and Major League Soccer, start plans for finishing their suspended seasons; all eventually play remaining games in “bubbles” in a few central locations.

March 13, 2020: The Alabama Department of Public Health reports the first COVID-19 cases in the state. Gov. Kay Ivey declares a state of emergency, which is updated several times over the following 13 months to include face mask and social distancing requirements. The order also shuts down all schools from March 18 to April 6. President Trump also declares a national emergency.

March 18, 2020: All gatherings of 25 people or more are prohibited in Jefferson County; on-premises consumption at restaurants, bars and breweries banned. The state’s primary runoff election is postponed. Seventeen known cases of COVID-19 are in Jefferson County.

March 19, 2020: Ivey and the state Department of Public Health issue another order that prohibits gathers of 25 people or more; forbids on-premises consumption at restaurants, bars and breweries; closes the beaches; and bans visitors in hospitals and nursing homes.

March 24, 2020: Birmingham orders a 24-hour curfew through April 3. Three days later, Tuscaloosa institutes a curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. daily. Elsewhere, the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo are postponed to the following year, which soon forces organizers of the 2021 World Games in Birmingham to be postponed until 2022.

March 24, 2020: ADPH reports the first COVID-19 death, located in Jackson County.

March 27, 2020: Gov. Ivey orders all nonessential businesses closed.

April 3, 2020: Ivey issues a stay-at-home order for the entire state for the rest of the month. Schools resort to instruction via Zoom and other online video services.

May 11, 2020: Total cases surpasses 10,000 statewide.

July 3, 2020: The 1,000th COVID death in Alabama is reported.

August 8, 2020: Total statewide cases passes the 100,000 mark. Later that month, school systems across the state start to decide whether to resume in-person teaching or distance learning via video, with many systems offering a hybrid option of two days a week at schools. Football teams prepare for play, though some smaller Alabama High School Athletic Association schools opt not to field teams for the season.

December 23, 2020: The initial COVID-19 variant, now called alpha, reaches a peak of daily new cases with a 7-day moving average of 4,132.

January 7, 2021: Alabama records its 5,000th death from COVID.

March 8, 2021: The Alabama Department of Public Health reports that cumulative positive COVID tests have passed 500,000, roughly 10% of the state’s total population.

April 9, 2021: Gov. Ivey’s public health mandate for face masks ends, though several cities continue their own orders

July 7, 2021: Daily new case numbers fall to a 7-day average of 121, the low point between the alpha surge and the introduction of the delta variant.

August 2021: Schools across Alabama open for the new academic year, with in-school instruction largely returning to pre-pandemic norms and athletic teams back to regular schedules.

September 1, 2021: Less than two months after the low point, a peak in the delta surge is reached with a 7-day average of 5,538 new daily cases — more than 45 times the low point.

September 23, 2021: The fast-spreading delta variant pushes deaths to a new all-time high 7-day average of 134.57 per day.

November 30, 2021: Almost as quickly as it came, delta’s effects have diminished. The 7-day average falls to 283, marking the low point after delta and before the new omicron variant.

January 12, 2022: The cumulative number of COVID cases in Alabama surpasses one million.

January 22, 2022: The omicron variant reaches its peak of new cases, with the 7-day moving average setting a new all-time record of 13,410 cases per day.

February 24, 2022: The new-case averages fall almost as quickly as they rose, dropping below the 1,000-case mark with a 7-day average of 938.

March 11, 2022: The 7-day average of new cases falls to 865. Death numbers, however, continue to slowly creep upward, with a 7-day average of 55. Hospitalizations of COVID patients stands at 290, less than one-tenth the omicron peak of 2,946 set on Jan. 25 or the all-time high of 3,084 on Jan. 11, 2021.