2020: Looking back at how the COVID-19 pandemic controlled the year

ByCamila Bernal, CNN WLS logo
Wednesday, December 30, 2020
2020: Looking back at how the COVID-19 pandemic controlled the year
2020 will forever be remembered as the year the world came to a halt, crippled by the coronavirus pandemic.

NEW YORK -- On January 3, 2020, Dr. Anthony Fauci talked about one of the worst health seasons in decades -- for the flu.

Americans would have to dig deep in the headlines to notice a story about a new virus in China

Three days later, the World Health Organization announced a mysterious pneumonia, and less than two weeks after that, President Donald Trump weighed in as the U.S. recorded its first known COVID-19 case in Washington state.

"We have it totally under control," he said.

Warnings then increased. On January 30, WHO declared a global health emergency, and then Trump declared a public health emergency on paper, while downplaying coronavirus in person.

"Looks like by April, in theory, when it gets a little warmer, [the coronavirus] miraculously goes away," Trump said at the time. "I hope that's true."

It was not.

When WHO declared a pandemic on March 11, Merriam-Webster reported that searches soared 115,000 %, making "pandemic" the dictionary's word of the year.

Schools and work went virtual, hospital ships prepared for patients and shoppers emptied shelves of toilet paper. Weddings, baby showers, graduations and virtually all of life moments meant to be shared went virtual.

The Dow dropped 34% in a month, with its worst day ever on March 16. Unemployment surged, and by May, one in five Americans had filed jobless claims.

On April 28, the U.S. reached 1 million cases. One week into December, the nation had recorded nearly 15 million cases.

In between, a pandemic turned political.

People in Michigan protested stay-at-home orders. Masks -- or lack thereof -- spoke volumes.

Spring break, summer bike rallies, fall holiday travel all happened, even as Fauci warned that behaviors had to change.

"We've got to hang together on this ... We can make it turn around. We really can," he said.

Even President Trump contracted the virus in the fall.

The government's $10 billion Operation Warp Speed program aimed to get 300 million doses of the vaccine developed and delivered in record time -- by January 2021.

In November, the U.S. saw its first promising results for vaccines, with Pfizer's reporting 95% effectiveness and Moderna's reporting 94%.

As 2020 comes to an end, many questions remain: Who's getting the vaccine and when? And how will we control the surging caseload in the meantime?