The Day COVID-19 Became a Global Pandemic

The Trump Timeline

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One month after Donald Trump started lying about the seriousness of COVID-19, the virus is declared a global pandemic, the country begins to shut down, and the president feels pressured to address the nation.

Early in the day, White House and administration officials meet to discuss incoming COVID data received by Dr. Deborah Birx from public health sources in Italy. The data is so grim that they discuss shutting down European travel and preparing something for Trump to tell the public. Sec. Steven Mnuchin opposes these ideas, preferring to prioritize the stock market.

After some time, a junior aide invites banking CEOs to join the discussion. They were already called to the White House and waiting outside. Trump greets them and says “There are some people who believe this virus is more serious than they thought.” He throws a look towards Dr. Birx.

Those with international operations were sober, grim, with no illusions about the difficult path ahead. Domestic CEOs seemed blissfully ignorant about the toll their business and people would endure.

Kayla Tausche

Trump wants to know if shutting down travel between the U.S. and other countries would impact the economy or his re-election chances. The consensus is that things are heading that way whether or not he takes action today.

As the hours of discussion start to lean in a clear direction, Vice President Mike Pence leaves the meeting to draft an action plan that Trump can reference when he addresses the nation.

In the evening, Trump gives a public address. He announces a 30-day ban on travel to and from Europe to combat the pandemic from worsening in the country.

But the speech is riddled with errors and typos, and Trump’s tone is dark. A moment scripted to reassure Americans that his administration is working to keep us safe has the opposite effect.

The stock market falls 2,300 points.

By Thursday, the national landscape had been undeniably altered, and Americans were panic-buying toilet paper. A whole new vocabulary—WFH, PPE, flattening the curve, social distancing, self-isolation, Zoom-bombing, and quarantinis—loomed ahead. Epochal events that had occurred just weeks earlier, from the Australian wildfires to President Trump’s impeachment trial to the drama of the Democratic primary, would seem instead to have occurred years ago.


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