Coronavirus timeline: Key dates as the virus spread in DC, Maryland and Virginia

The novel coronavirus has swept through the D.C. area, spurring massive changes in the way we live our lives — from whether we go to work to how our children are educated.

Below is a timeline of some of the key developments over the past few months.

WTOP will continue to update this timeline as things change.

In this Jan. 30, 2020 file photo, a man wears a face mask as he stands along the waterfront in Wuhan in central China’s Hubei Province. (AP Photo/Arek Rataj, File)

DECEMBER 2019

Reports first emerge of a mysterious pneumonia-like illness linked to an outdoor food market in the Chinese city of Wuhan.

JAN. 9

Doctors and scientists studying the illness determine the viral pneumonia is caused by a new type of coronavirus, according to reports in Chinese state media.

At that time, 59 people had contracted the illness, local authorities said. Later that month, the entire province is locked down. The lockdown would last 76 days.

JAN. 26 

The U.S. confirms the first known cases of the new coronavirus in the country: five cases in Washington state, all among people who traveled to the Chinese city at the center of the outbreak.

This undated file photo provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows the CDC’s laboratory test kit for the new coronavirus. (CDC via AP, File)

JAN. 27

Maryland and Virginia saw the first people in the D.C. area tested for the new coronavirus. Those tested included a Maryland resident and a George Mason University student. However, the results came back negative.

For the new few weeks, health departments in D.C., Maryland and Virginia reported a trickle of new test results — all negative.

JAN. 30

The World Health Organization declares the outbreak a global emergency after the number of cases worldwide spikes more than tenfold in a week.

JAN. 31

The U.S. declared a public health emergency.

President Donald Trump signed an order that temporarily bars from the U.S. foreign nationals, other than immediate family of U.S. citizens and permanent residents, who have traveled in China within the last 14 days.

Workers pack bottles of alcohol disinfectant in a factory in Suining in southwest China’s Sichuan province Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020. (Chinatopix Via AP)

FEB. 11

The WHO gave the disease caused by the novel coronavirus a name: COVID-19.

FEB. 29

The U.S. recorded its first coronavirus death: a man in his 50s at a long-term care facility in Washington state.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announces the first three laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state of Maryland on March 5, 2020. The governor is flanked by Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford and Deputy Health Secretary Fran Phillips.

MARCH 5

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced three people in Maryland, all in Montgomery County, had tested positive for the virus — the first three known cases in the D.C. region. The first cases in the state included a married couple in their 70s and a woman in her 50s who had returned from a cruise along the Nile River.

Hogan announced a state of emergency.

MARCH 7

Two days later, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced the first known coronavirus case in the District. The Rev. Timothy Cole, the rector of Georgetown Christ Church, had recently traveled to Kentucky for a church conference. Several other parishioners would later test positive amid a burgeoning outbreak.

That same day, Virginia also recorded its first case: a U.S. Marine stationed at Fort Belvoir.

Muriel Bowser
Mayor Muriel Bowser speaks at a news conference to announce the first presumptive positive case of the coronavirus, technically known as COVID-19, in Washington, Saturday, March 7, 2020. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

MARCH 11

D.C.’s Mayor Bowser declared a public health emergency and urged all large gatherings planned in the District to be postponed or canceled. At the time, there were 10 confirmed coronavirus cases in D.C. — and more than two dozen in the broader D.C. region.

Health officials said there was evidence that community transmission of the coronavirus was occurring.

It was also on this date the WHO first characterized COVID-19 as a pandemic.

MARCH 12

In a dramatic announcement, Maryland Gov. Hogan issued an order banning all large gatherings of people and activated the National Guard, while the state superintendent of education ordered all public schools in the state to close for two weeks.

Hogan’s announcement came after officials announced the first known case of a patient being infected with coronavirus through what’s known as community transmission.

That same day, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam also declared a state of emergency.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan addresses reporters, March 16, 2020 in Annapolis. From left is Deputy Health Secretary Fran Phillips, Maj. Gen. Timothy Gowen, the adjutant general of the Maryland National Guard, Hogan, and Superintendent of the Maryland State Police Woodrow Jones. (AP Photo/Brian Witte)

MARCH 13

Following Maryland’s move closing schools for two weeks, D.C. and Virginia announced schools would be closed through the end of March.

D.C.’s Bowser also issued a new order banning gatherings of 250 people or more in response to the spread of the virus. The mayor’s previous measure had been only a recommendation. The threshold would later be lowered to 10 people, in line with CDC guidance.

That same day, speaking from the White House, Trump declared a national emergency.

MARCH 14

The region marked a sad milestone: the first coronavirus death in D.C., Maryland or Virginia.

Health officials said they weren’t sure how the James City County, Virginia, man in his 70s had contracted the virus, and they suspected the virus was spreading in the community.

A downtown Bethesda restaurant is closed as Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s executive order takes effect, closing bars, restaurants, gyms and movie theaters across the state in response to coronavirus. (AP/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

MARCH 16

D.C.’s Bowser ordered all bars and restaurants in the District to operate as carryout and delivery only. In addition to restaurants, the D.C. Health Department said movie theaters, health clubs, spas, massage parlors and other large businesses also need to close.

Maryland’s Hogan issued a similar order.

The number of coronavirus cases around the region continued to climb, reaching more than 100.

At a White House briefing that day, Trump and members of his Coronavirus Task Force called on Americans to practice social distancing and to avoid gatherings for the next 14 days.

MARCH 17

Maryland’s Hogan announced he was pushing back the state’s presidential primary, initially scheduled for April 28, until June 2. Under plans later put together by the state board of elections, the rescheduled primary will mostly be done by mail, but there will be one polling place open in each county.

Following the moves by Maryland and D.C. to close restaurant dining rooms and movie theaters, Virginia’s Northam issued an order enforcing a 10-person limit in restaurants and other businesses. He would later order entertainment venues closed entirely.

MARCH 18

Maryland marked its first coronavirus death: A Prince George’s County man his 60s with an underlying medical condition.

At the time there were about 200 coronavirus cases in D.C., Maryland and Virginia.

Main Street in Annapolis is seen in this March 2020 photo. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

MARCH 19

In a further clampdown on public gatherings, Maryland’s Hogan ordered all shopping malls and entertainment venues in the state to close. He also issued an order lowering the threshold on gatherings to 10 people or less, and promised it would be enforced by law enforcement.

Elsewhere, Italy overtook China as the country with the most coronavirus-related deaths at the time — more than 3,400 — and the governor of California issued a statewide order for people to stay home.

MARCH 20

D.C.’s Bowser extended the closure of public schools through April 27. As it stands now, Bowser has yet to make a decision on when — or if — students will return to classrooms this school year.

In addition, Bowser extended her order banning dine-in services at restaurants and requiring them to operate on a takeout or delivery-only capacity through most of April.

That same day, D.C. also recorded its first death from COVID-19: a 59-year-old man.

In New York, which was soon to become the U.S. epicenter of the pandemic, the governor issued a “shelter-in-place” order, directing residents to stay home.

Ralph Northam
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam gestures during a news conference at the Capitol Wednesday, April 8, 2020, in Richmond. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

MARCH 23

In another whirlwind of official pronouncements, Maryland’s Hogan ordered nonessential businesses in the state to close, and Virginia’s Northam ordered all public schools to keep their doors closed through the end of the academic year.

In D.C., Bowser ordered the National Guard and D.C. police to block roads near the National Mall and the Tidal Basin in an attempt to limit large crowds visiting the cherry blossoms.

Earlier that month, organizers of the National Cherry Blossom Festival, usually one of the District’s marquee spring events, canceled most of the festivities.

At the time, there were more than 650 coronavirus cases in region.

MARCH 24

Following Maryland’s earlier move, D.C.’s Bowser ordered nonessential businesses, such as salons, barbershops and clothing stores, in the city to close.

The Metro transit system, which had already announced service reductions, announced it was closing more than a dozen rail stations indefinitely. Ridership had fallen by 90% as many workers around the region worked from home.

By that point, the region recorded more than 800 coronavirus cases and 13 deaths.

A D.C. police vehicle is parked on the other side of a tape police line along the Tidal Basin as cherry blossoms cover the trees, in Washington, Monday, March 23, 2020. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

MARCH 25

In Maryland, public schools, which were set to reopen at the beginning of April, were instead ordered closed through April 27, by order of state Superintendent of Education Karen Salmon. It’s still to be decided if students will actually return to classrooms this school year.

Meanwhile, the number of COVID-19 cases across Maryland, D.C. and Virginia continued to rise, totaling more than 1,000 cases.

MARCH 27

Congress passed and Trump quickly signed an unprecedented $2.2 trillion economic rescue package into law.

The measure contains a plan to send stimulus checks to millions of Americans. However, D.C. leaders criticized the measure after it categorized the District as a territory and slated it to receive $700 billion less in direct aid than states.

D.C.’s Bowser called it an “injustice” and said she is continuing to work with congressional leaders to secure more money for the city.

Nationwide, the number of coronavirus infections surged past 100,000 and the number of deaths topped 1,500.

A sign about the coronavirus is displayed over U.S. 50 in Davidsonville, Maryland, Monday, March 30, 2020. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

MARCH 30 

In the most significant step taken to fight the spread of the virus, the leaders of Maryland, D.C. and Virginia issued formal “stay-at-home orders.”

All three orders were similar, directing residents to stay in their homes except for trips to the grocery store, to get medical care, going to work and outside recreation as long as social distancing guidelines were followed.

In all three jurisdictions, restaurants were allowed to stay open, offering takeout and delivery service.

The total number of coronavirus cases in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia hit more than 2,900, with 39 deaths.

APRIL 3

Officials in D.C. unveiled a model of projected coronavirus infections that estimated up to 93,000 total infections in the District and deaths at anywhere from 225 to 1,000.

In Virginia, Northam said the state was “facing a recession” in the wake of the coronavirus response efforts, and he told state agencies to prepare for budget cuts.

The White House Coronavirus Task Force unveiled a new recommendation from the CDC: Americans should cover their faces with a cloth mask or other face covering when leaving the house, especially in places such as grocery stores where practicing social distancing is difficult.

Overall, coronavirus cases in D.C., Maryland and Virginia topped 5,500. The number of deaths reached more than 100.

Larry Hogan
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan arrives for a news conference in Annapolis, Friday, April 10, 2020. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

APRIL 7

In a first of its kind virtual session, the D.C. Council unanimously approved a major coronavirus relief bill.

Among other provisions, the legislation includes a citywide freeze on rent increases, mortgage-payment deferrals, an expansion of unemployment insurance and the mailing of an absentee-ballot application to every voter.

The legislative action came as an economic analysis by the city estimated $607 million in lost revenue from shuttered businesses and out-of-work residents. Bowser ordered District government agencies to freeze hiring and salaries.

Giant customer
A customer at a Giant grocery store in Alexandria, Virginia, wears a protective face mask while waiting in line at the checkout. (Courtesy Shannon Finney/shannonfinneyphotography.com)

APRIL 9

D.C.’s Bowser issued a new order requiring grocery stores to limit the number of customers inside stores and requiring customers to cover their faces.

The total cumulative number of cases of COVID-19 in D.C., Maryland and Virginia grew to over 10,000, and 226 people had died.

APRIL 10

Maryland’s Hogan announced he was ordering a statewide budget and hiring freeze, and warned of cuts after “worst-case scenario” projections showed a $2.8 billion revenue shortfall.

Earlier that day, Maryland’s top financial official had called the coronavirus pandemic “the worst public health crisis and most devastating economic catastrophe of our lifetimes.”

Trump, who had drawn alarm when he earlier said he hoped to “reopen” the country by Easter, announced a task force that would come up with a plan for “opening our country.”

By this time, 330 people had died in D.C., Maryland and Virginia, and the total number of coronavirus infections reached more than 13,000.

APRIL 13

A growing number of counties in the D.C. area announced new rules requiring grocery store customers to wear face coverings while shopping.

Montgomery, Prince George’s, Anne Arundel and Charles counties in Maryland all announced new rules requiring face masks in stores and other public places.

By this point, more than 16,600 people in D.C., Virginia and Maryland had been infected with the virus, and more than 460 had died.

APRIL 15

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan issued an executive order requiring customers to wear face masks or face coverings inside grocery stores and other retailers throughout the state and on any form of public transportation.

In D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser extended a series of social distancing measures, including a stay-at-home order, the closure of nonessential businesses and public schools, and a ban on large public gatherings through May 15. Those measures were originally set to expire April 24.

And in Virginia, Gov. Ralph Northam extended an executive order closing recreation and entertainment businesses and banning large gatherings until May 8. The state’s stay-at-home order still runs through June 10.

The news came as the region marked its deadliest two days of the pandemic, so far. Maryland, alone, recorded 40 deaths each of the past two days. All told, the coronavirus had claimed more than 616 lives in D.C., Maryland and Virginia. The number of total infections stood at more than 18,700.

APRIL 16

The White House unveiled a broad road map for economic recovery in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, laying out a three-phase process for restoring economic activity and beginning to lift some restrictions.

In order to move to phase one of the plan, the guidelines recommend at least 14 days of declining coronavirus cases.

APRIL 17

In D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser announced that students would not return to classrooms this year and that the school year would end three weeks early.

Meanwhile, in Maryland, education officials took a more incremental approach. State Superintendent of Education Karen Salmon announced that schools would stay closed until May 15.

APRIL 19

Protesters turned out in Annapolis, Maryland, to call for an end to the strict measures put in place to slow the spread of COVID-19 in the state. (WTOP/Melissa Howell)

Caravans of protesters under the banner “Reopen Maryland” gathered near the statehouse in Annapolis to protest the closing of business, churches and schools.

Similar groups of protesters would also gather in Richmond, Virginia, April 22, when the General Assembly met for an unprecedented outdoor session.

National polls have shown most Americans support state-imposed restrictions on businesses and public gatherings to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus

APRIL 20

The shipment of 500,000 COVID-19 tests from South Korea arriving at BWI Airport April 18, 2020. (Courtesy Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan)

The state of Maryland acquired 500,000 new COVID-19 tests from a South Korean health care company after weeks of complicated negotiations that were spearheaded by Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and first lady Yumi Hogan.

Hogan called the $9 million purchase “game-changing” and said it would significantly ramp up the state’s testing capacity.

By that point, the number of known coronavirus cases across D.C., Maryland and Virginia stood at more than 25,000. The death toll from the virus stood at 921.

APRIL 21

D.C., Maryland, and Virginia region marked a grim milestone with number of coronavirus deaths reaching more than 1,000.

APRIL 23

Congress passed another coronavirus relief bill, this one providing nearly $500 billion in relief to employers and hospitals.

Congress delivered a nearly $500 billion infusion of coronavirus spending, rushing new relief to employers and hospitals buckling under the strain of a pandemic that claimed almost 50,000 American lives and one in six U.S. jobs.

The measure passed almost unanimously and President Donald Trump signed it into law the following day.

APRIL 24

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan wears a mask with a pattern of the state flag of Maryland during a news conference on Friday, April 24, 2020 in Annapolis. (AP Photo/Brian Witte)

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan unveiled a three-stage plan for gradually easing coronavirus restrictions in the state, including the stay-at-home order he issued in late March.

The governor said he was hopeful the state could begin easing some of the restrictions listed in the first stage by early May, but it would depend on whether hospitalizations and deaths continued to decline.

APRIL 27

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced the creation of the “Reopen DC Committee” to come up with a plan for restarting parts of the District’s economy. The committee is being led by Susan Rice, former national security adviser under President Barack Obama, and Michael Chertoff, former Secretary of Homeland Security under President George W. Bush.

By this point, there were nearly 37,000 coronavirus cases in D.C., Maryland and Virginia, and 1,500 deaths.

APRIL 29

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan issued an executive order requiring that all residents and staff members at nursing homes around the state be tested for the coronavirus, regardless of whether they show symptoms.

The ramp-up in testing was made possible by the acquisition of 500,000 test kits from South Korea, Hogan said.

MAY 1

The number of deaths across D.C., Maryland and Virginia had doubled, to more than 2,000. At that point, there were 45,000 total cases in the region.

MAY 4

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam gestures duding a news conference at the Capitol Monday May 4, 2020, in Richmond, Va. Northam announced a phase one opening of the state beginning May 15. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said the commonwealth would be ready to begin reopening some businesses, such as barbershops and restaurants, May 15 as part of the first phase of the state’s coronavirus recovery plan.

Under the first phase of the reopening plan, gyms, restaurants and retail shops could reopen but with lower capacities.

At the time, there were more than 51,000 total cases and more than 2,200 deaths across D.C., Maryland and Virginia.

MAY 6

Education officials in Maryland announced schools in the state would remain closed for the rest of the school year. Also, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced that the state appeared to be on track to begin Phase One of the state’s reopening plan as early as May 15.

By this point, there were more than 54,000 cases and nearly 2,500 deaths across D.C., Maryland and Virginia.

MAY 7

Beginning on the morning of May 7, some outdoor recreational outdoor activities were allowed to restart after Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan eased some restrictions.

Among the activities now allowed: golf, tennis, camping, fishing and boating. In addition, state park facilities and beaches reopened.

MAY 11

The Washington Convention Center has become an alternate care site, if needed, as part of D.C.’s coronavirus response plan. (Courtesy Mark Segraves/NBC Washington)

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and other District officials opened the Washington Convention Center as an alternate care site. It took the Army Corps of Engineers about three weeks to transform the convention center into a 437-bed field hospital. Starting May 11, it was able to accommodate 100 patients. But Bowser said the facility was more like the District’s “insurance policy” in case hospitals faced an influx of coronavirus patients.

“We hope that we will never have to use it, but it is here and staffed for when we do or if we do,” she said.

MAY 12

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam issued an executive order allowing Northern Virginia to more slowly ease coronavirus restrictions even as the rest of the commonwealth begins reopening. When the rest of Virginia enters into “Phase One” of the recovery plan, local authorities in Northern Virginia can remain in what’s called “Phase Zero” through 11:59 p.m. May 28.

Northern Virginia has faced significantly higher caseloads than the rest of the commonwealth.

The Association Press contributed to this report.

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