COVID-19 Day 12: Hindsight 2020 Challenge

Remember a month or two ago when the only time we talked about coronavirus was in memes involving Mexican beer?

One of our best chances to stop the COVID-19 was in late January when the outbreak didn’t even have a name. But in China, the authorities were actively suppressing news about the worsening outbreak. Here in the US, everybody was consumed by the Trump Impeachment and very little else.

But not everybody. On January 31, 2020, the US Health and Human Services agency (which includes the CDC, FDA, et al) issued an official announcement declaring COVID-19 a national health emergency. Scientists, researchers and civil servants got to work with planning how to battle this new virus. Unfortunately their warnings would go mostly unheeded and their efforts de-prioritized.

While one could argue we’d be better if Trump had been impeached and Pence now leading our nation’s COVID19 war. The fact remains that back in early January, the only thing most Americans were concerned about was who was going to win the Oscars, Kobe Bryant’s death, and the DNC candidates. Those were our main priorities. Let that sink in.

In February, House Speaker Nancy Pelossi encouraged tourists to visit to San Francisco “Don’t let this kind of virus scare you off.” President Trump said at a COVID-19 press briefing, “…you have 15 people, and the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero, that’s a pretty good job we’ve done.” As late as March, Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted, “Since I’m encouraging New Yorkers to go on with your lives + get out on the town despite Coronavirus…” Politicians from both parties could be roundly criticized for statements about the virus that they would like the public to conveniently forget. But the internet always remembers.

While all that was going on, we can take a look at how the pandemic was spreading. The New York Times created this cool interactive timeline showing the origins of the COVID-19 Pandemic. Scrolling through time evokes a terrible sense of awe and inevitability. If only we could go back in time and warn everyone. It’s not that we didn’t see the signs. It’s that we were too easily distracted.

I’m starting the “Hindsight is 2020 Challenge”. Do this little exercise with your Facebook or social media platform. Scroll back on your timeline. Keep on scrolling until and see the posts you were sharing on these key dates below. Screenshot your post from January 31 and share it with your friends.

You can also compare your history with some other headlines that dominated the news:


March 20: NYC becomes new epicenter in US with more than 7,500 confirmed cases

March 19: CA becomes first state US to issue a statewide stay-at-home order

March 16: San Francisco first US city to announce Bay Area-wide stay-at-home order

Mar 13 – Trump announces National Emergency

Mar. 11 – WHO declares COVID-19 a global pandemic

Mar. 8 – Much of Northern Italy under quarantine

Mar. 6 – Trump signs $8.3B emergency appropriations bill for COVID-19 response

Mar. 5 – Elizabeth Warren suspends campaign 

Mar 4 – Mike Bloomberg drops out of Primary, endorse Joe Biden

Mar. 3 – Joe Biden wins Super Tuesday primaries

Mar. 1 – Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar drop and endorse Joe Biden

Italy (1,128) and South Korea (3,736) have the most cases COVID-19 outside of China

Feb. 27 – WHO chief Tedros says to world leaders, “ This is your window of opportunity. If you act aggressively now, you can contain this virus.“

Feb. 26 – More cases reported outside of China than within China

Feb. 24 – Harvey Weinstein is convicted of rape in Los Angeles

Feb. 12 – Diamond Princess cruise ship quarantined in Japan

Feb. 11 — Bernie Sanders wins New Hampshire Primary

WHO assigns the novel coronavirus its official name: COVID-19.

The death toll of victims of the 2019-nCoV surpasses the death toll of the SARS epidemic.

Feb. 7 — Dr. Li Wenliang, who tried to raise the alarm on 2019-nCoV back in December, dies from the virus.

Feb. 5 — US Senate votes to acquit President Trump

Ten passengers from a cruise ship currently docked in Yokohama, Japan, test positive for 2019-nCoV including US passengers.

Feb. 3 — Iowa Democratic caucus held. Winner uncertain for days.

WHO chief Tedros says widespread travel bans not needed

Feb. 2 — Trump announces travel restrictions to and from China

Jan. 31 — US Senate votes against calling additional witness in Impeachment trial

The U.S. declares the outbreak a public health emergency. 

Italy reports first case 2019-nCoV

Jan. 30 — WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus declares the outbreak a public health emergency of international concern

Jan. 26 — Kobe Bryant and daughter die in helicopter accident. World mourns. 

WHO declares coronavirus outbreak a global public health emergency

Jan. 25 — Trump Defense Presentation begins in US Senate

Lunar New Year begins. Millions travel to China and Asia to visit relatives.

Jan. 23 — Chinese Govt. locks down Wuhan and the city of Ezhou.

WHO director-general decides to NOT declare the 2019-nCoV outbreak a public health emergency of international concern, despite recommendations by his emergency committee.

Jan 22-24 – Opening arguments in US Senate for Trump Impeachment Trial 

Jan. 21 — WHO confirms human-to-human transmission of the virus.

Jan. 20 — US confirms its first case of 2019-nCoV, a US national evacuated from Wuhan

Jan 16 – US Congress submits Articles of Impeachment to Senate

Jan. 15 — Japan reports first imported case, a Chinese national

Jan. 14 – WHO report Chinese Authorities have no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission of 2019-nCoV. Chinese Authorities have known since December 5 that human-to-human transmission occured.

Jan. 13 — Thailand reports first case outside of China

Jan. 12 — China shares the genetic sequence of the novel coronavirus

Jan. 9 — China reports first death linked to the new coronavirus, 2019-nCoV. 

Jan. 7 — China identifies new coronavirus as cause of the outbreak. 2019-nCoV 

Jan 6 – Harvey Weinstein trial begins in Los Angeles

Jan. 3 — China reports a total of 44 suspected patients with the mystery disease.

Jan. 1 — Officials close the Huanan seafood market

Dec. 31, 2019 — Chinese authorities inform WHO’s China office of pneumonia cases in Wuhan City, Hubei province, China, with unknown cause.

Dec. 30, 2019 – Dr. Li Wenliang arrested by Wuhan police for sharing his concerns about new mystery pneumonia, with fellow doctors in online newsgroup. 7 other whistleblowers detained and reprimanded by authorities.

Dec. 1, 2019 – First patient later identified with 2019-nCoV admitted to hospital in Wuhan, China.
Screen Shot 2020-03-22 at 4.02.37 PM
WHO Tweet c. January 14, 2020, reporting disinformation from Chinese authorities.



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