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A timeline of California in the coronavirus pandemic

Our sister station, ABC10 details the major events that happened in the coronavirus pandemic affecting people in California.
Credit: AP
A pedestrian walks past a sign advising mask-wearing during the coronavirus outbreak in San Francisco, Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — With a year passing since the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus pandemic, many people reflect on how life has changed.

As of March 11, 2021, California has 3,516,862 confirmed cases of COVID-19, resulting in 54,891 deaths.

The state has also administered 10,988,301 doses of coronavirus vaccines.

Below is a detailed account of major events that shaped the past year for Northern California and beyond.


Jan. 21: First known case of the coronavirus in the United States was found in Washington.

Jan. 26: Third known case of the coronavirus in the United States found in Orange County.

Jan. 28: Lunar New Years' events across the Sacramento and Central Valleys announce cancellations due to coronavirus concerns.

Jan. 30: The U.S. declares a public health emergency for the coronavirus crisis worldwide but stated the threat was low in the United States. The White House also announced the creation of the coronavirus task force. Also, on this date, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported the first known person-to-person transmission of the coronavirus in the U.S. occurred in Chicago.

Feb. 3: Health experts in Northern California were more concerned about the flu than the coronavirus.

Feb. 25: CDC warned the spread of COVID-19 throughout the U.S. was inevitable.

Feb. 26: Washington reports the first-known stateside COVID-19 death for the U.S. San Francisco becomes the first California city to declare a state of emergency for the coronavirus. Vice President Mike Pence became the leader of the coronavirus task force.

Feb. 27: The DOW suffers its biggest drop since 2011 due to anxiety surrounding the coronavirus's effect on businesses. U.S. health officials also announce a shortage in personal protective equipment. Governor Gavin Newsom said the coronavirus threat for Californians was low.

March 2: People "panic buying" resulted in many Sacramento area stores running low on basic supplies.

March 3: The NBA tells players to avoid high-fives due to the coronavirus.

March 4: Governor Gavin Newsom declares a state of emergency for the coronavirus crisis following the first-known COVID-19 death of a passenger from Rocklin on the Grand Princess.

March 6: Costco stops giving out free samples due to coronavirus concerns. Moderna started its vaccine trial in Washington.

March 8: The Grand Princess Cruise docked in Oakland with hundreds of people quarantined due to coronavirus concerns. Elk Grove Unified School District also closed schools due to coronavirus infection.

March 9: "Jeopardy!" and "Wheel of Fortune" were the first shows to forgo a studio audience while taping.

March 10: California universities cease in-person classes due to the coronavirus. An Elk Grove senior home facility resident died of the coronavirus.

March 11: The World Health Organization declares a pandemic for the COVID-19 crisis. Later that day, the NBA suspended its season while Sacramento Kings fans sat in the Golden 1 arena.

March 12: Governor Gavin Newsom calls for the cancellation of all large events but not schools.

March 15: CDC issues new guidelines about the coronavirus pandemic, limiting gatherings to 50 people. Newsom ordered all bars to close and restaurants to reduce their capacity.

March 16: All Sacramento County school districts were slated to close due to concerns about the coronavirus. The CDC released updated guidelines limiting the recommended gathering size to 10 people. SAT and ACT exams were canceled due to the coronavirus.

March 17: U.S. leaders begin talks of the first stimulus package. Meanwhile, Newsom sets out protections for renters and homeowners. And the IRS extended the filing deadline for 2019 taxes.

March 18: Churches in California begin virtual mass.

March 19: Governor Newsom issued the stay-at-home order where all non-essential businesses were ordered to close, and people were encouraged to stay at home and avoid going out. Hospitals begin banning visitors for patients.

March 20: California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control announced it is now allowing restaurants to sell alcoholic drinks to go. 

March 21: President Donald Trump suggests a malaria drug, hydroxychloroquine, to treat the coronavirus despite outcry from the medical community, including infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci.

March 27: Former President Trump signs the first stimulus bill into law.

March 29: Former President Trump extends the coronavirus guidelines for 30 days. California State Parks close their parking lots to discourage non-essential travel. 

March 30: California companies begin manufacturing more ventilators to help with the shortage.

March 31: The California Department of Education advised students not to return for in-person learning for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year.

April 1: The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation put out a plan for roughly 3,500 inmates to be released from state prisons due to the coronavirus pandemic.

April 2: California creates OnwardCA, which was a site designed to help people find work.

April 3: The CDC recommends everyone use face coverings to help minimize the spread of the coronavirus.

April 9: Roughly 16.8 million Americans were out of work by this date.

April 19: Newsom declares a pandemic-induced recession with 3.1 million Californians out of work since March 12.

April 20: Sleep Train Arena was ready to be used as a regional overflow hospital facility.

April 21: An investigation into deaths that occurred before widespread knowledge of COVID-19 revealed the first stateside U.S. COVID-19 death actually occurred Feb. 6 in Santa Clara County.

April 23: California suspends its grocery bag tax as people are encouraged not to use reusable bags during the pandemic.

April 28: Newsom releases his first reopening plan.

May 2: Yuba, Sutter and Placer counties see businesses reopen ahead of the state's recommendation, including the Yuba-Sutter Mall.

May 8: State enters "early-stage two" of reopening. Some examples of businesses that can open with modifications include bookstores, clothing stores, florists and sporting goods stores.

May 18: Sit-down restaurants and bars were permitted to open in most counties across the state as California moved further into stage 2 of reopening.

May 21: Casinos start to open up ahead of the state's recommendation. Newsom's plan for reopening suggested these businesses open in stage 3.

May 26: Most counties start to enter stage 3 of reopening in some counties as hair salons, nail salons, museums and zoos reopen.

May 27: Many counties start to see a spike in cases following Memorial Day.

June 18: Masks are now mandatory outside of the home in most settings.

June 22: Counties in our region begin to see more new cases than ever before. The California Department of Public Health began tracking counties using a data monitoring list, and San Joaquin County was deemed one of the troubled counties.

July 1: Counties on the data monitoring list are required for most indoor businesses, including bars and indoor dining.

July 13: The 30 counties on the state's data monitoring list were ordered to close all indoor businesses immediately.

July 15: Newsom recommends coronavirus testing for people in hospitals be the priority. Meanwhile, San Joaquin County receives help from federal medical teams to help manage its overwhelmed hospitals.

July 17: California churches are taking service outdoors during mandated indoor closures.

July 22: California surpasses New York state in confirmed coronavirus cases. California school districts began releasing their plans to reopen or continue distance learning in the fall.

July 27: Former Sacramento City Councilmember and Sheriff Robbie Waters died from the coronavirus.

Aug. 6: California set out rules for in-person voting ahead of the November election.

Aug. 7: 10,000 people reported dead of COVID-19 in California. And California reported a data backlog in coronavirus tests.

Aug. 10: The California Department of Public Health director resigns during the data glitch.

Aug. 14: UC Davis Health helps in the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine trial.

Aug. 31: California launches a new system for reopening the state, the tier system. US coronavirus cases surpass 6 million.

Sept. 7: Thousands of people gather at the California Capitol to protest guidelines at churches.

Sept. 9: Placer County Public Health Director Aimee Sisson resigns abruptly before moving to Yolo County. Sisson said she resigned in response to the relaxed view of the coronavirus by Placer County leaders.

Sept. 15: Sacramento Catholic Diocese schools join the hundreds of schools that received waivers to reopen for in-person learning.

Sept. 20: California coronavirus death toll passes 15,000.

Oct. 10: California loosens its restrictions on private gatherings outdoors.

Nov. 12: US crosses 150,000 new COVID-19 cases for 1st time.

Nov. 13: Just ahead of what are typically the busiest travel days of the year, California, Oregon, and Washington issue coronavirus travel advisories.

Nov. 15: The U.S. surpasses 11 million confirmed coronavirus cases.

Nov. 16: California's governor is pulling the 'emergency brake' to impose new businesses' restrictions amid a spike in coronavirus cases.

Nov. 19: California imposes a curfew to curb coronavirus spread.

Nov. 20: Kaiser Permanente joins Pfizer's study of the COVID-19 vaccine's effect on people 17 and under.

Dec. 1: A new government study suggests the coronavirus reached the United States as early as Dec. 2019.

Dec. 3: California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a new conditional stay-at-home order as California faced rising hospitalizations and ICU admissions due to the coronavirus.

Dec. 10: California releases a notification app to alert people when exposed to a person with the coronavirus.

Dec. 14: Vaccinations against COVID-19 begin in California. California also released guidelines for youth sports to resume.

Dec. 21: Moderna vaccine arrives in California. 

Dec. 23: Roughly 1 million Americans have received their 1st COVID-19 vaccine. 

Dec. 27: Trump signs the law allowing for a second stimulus check.

Dec. 29: Department of Defense medical team headed to California counties such as San Joaquin County to aid in the care of COVID-19 patients.

Dec. 30: California announces its first case of a coronavirus variant. Newsom also provides a new reopening plan for California schools.


Jan. 1: The U.S. marks 20 million total coronavirus cases.

Jan. 11: California reached 30,000 coronavirus deaths. California designates Cal Expo, Disneyland and some baseball stadiums designated as mass vaccination sites in California.

Jan. 18: California becomes the first state to top 3 million coronavirus cases.

Jan. 19: The U.S. coronavirus death toll tops 400,000.

Jan. 21: President Joe Biden brings backs several coronavirus guidelines including travel restrictions and masks.

Jan. 22: California launches MyTurn, a website to help with scheduling vaccine appointments, but only makes it available in Los Angeles County to start.

Jan. 25: Newsom confirms all counties were no longer under the regional stay-at-home order and returned to the tier system for reopening.

Jan. 27: Blue Shield of California tapped to run California's vaccine system.

Feb. 10: CDC study finds two masks are better than one against COVID-19 but didn't add double masking to its recommendations.

Feb. 11: CVS begins vaccinations in pharmacies across California.

Feb. 16: FEMA opens mass vaccination sites across California.

Feb. 18: Life expectancy in the U.S. dropped a year due to the coronavirus pandemic according to the CDC.

Feb. 23: Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a $7.6 billion coronavirus relief package into law; this included the Golden State Stimulus check.

Feb 24: California tops 50,000 COVID deaths.

Feb. 27: The FDA gives emergency approval to the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

March 4: Newsom announced 40% of vaccine doses would be allocated for disadvantaged communities.

March 5: Newsom signed AB 86 into law to accelerate the safe return to in-person instruction. Newsom also announced Disneyland, Major League Baseball could reopen as soon as April 1.

March 11: Biden signs a bill into law that includes a third stimulus check.

WATCH ALSO: Here's what the COVID relief package includes for you | Dollars and Sense

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