(WTAJ) — It has been almost an entire year since the first COVID-19 case was confirmed in the United States. The first case was reported in Washington state on Jan. 20, 2020.
Fast-forward a few months: on March 6, 2020, the first two COVID-19 cases were reported in Pennsylvania. Now, on Jan. 15 in 2021, Pennsylvania has reached over 750,000 total cases of the coronavirus at 754,611.
BY THE NUMBERS
- March 6, 2020: First two cases were reported.
- March 25, 2020: Over 1,000 cases (1,127)
- April 14, 2020: Over 25,000 cases (25,345)
- May 4, 2020: Over 50,000 cases (50,092)
- July 18, 2020: Over 100,000 cases (100,241)
- Oct. 28, 2020: Over 200,000 cases (200,674)
- Nov. 21, 2020: Over 300,000 cases (302,564)
- Dec. 5, 2020: Over 400,000 cases (411,484)
- Dec. 15, 2020: Over 500,000 cases (509,320)
- Dec. 26, 2020: Over 600,000 cases (605,141)
- Jan. 8, 2021: Over 700,000 cases (703,265)
Numbers provided by the Pennsylvania Department of Health.
A glimpse into what we have witnessed: statewide restrictions, a transformation in the classroom, sports without fans in the stands and the journey to distributing a vaccine.
You can look at the timeline by various sections: restrictions, notable COVID-19 cases, school updates, sports, details on the new COVID-19 strain and updates on the vaccination process in the commonwealth.
March 16, 2020: Gov. Wolf extends shutdown advisory to the entire state. Wolf already called for nonessential government offices to close and nonessential business activity to end in four heavily populated southeast Pennsylvania counties. At this point in time, the immediate closure was NOT mandated, but it was strongly urged that nonessential businesses shut down. Essential businesses included grocery stores, banks, gas stations, big box stores, daycares, pharmacies, healthcare and hardware stores, or stores that sell a range of consumer goods.
March 19, 2020: Wolf orders all non-life-sustaining businesses to close at 8 p.m. The previous businesses that were suggested to close are now forced to shut their doors at 8 p.m. Enforcement set to begin on March 21 for businesses that don’t close and could result in fines, citations, or license suspensions. Private businesses or local organizations that didn’t comply could forfeit the ability to receive applicable disaster relief.
March 20, 2020: The enforcement protocols for non-life sustaining businesses to shut down is extended to March 23 at 8 a.m. This resulted from a high amount of businesses requesting waivers for an extension.
March 27, 2020: Gov. Wolf provides more clarification on what counts as an essential business. At this point, only three types of businesses were required to close until further notice: state liquor stores, state-licensed daycare centers, and bars, and dine-in restaurants. (Bars and dine-in restaurants could stay open only for takeout, delivery and drive-through services). The closing of recreational centers, gyms, casinos, etc. was suggested to close for 14 days.
March 28, 2020: Stay at home order extended to 22 counties. The newest additions to the list: Beaver, Berks, Butler, Centre, Lackawanna, Lancaster, Lehigh, Luzerne, Northampton, Pike, Washington, Wayne, Westmoreland and York. The order was supposed to last until April 6. The Pennsylvania Department of Health provided guidelines for activities that were allowed under the order, including but not limited to getting necessary supplies, outdoor activity that maintains social distancing and travel to or from essential businesses.
April 1, 2020: All of Pennsylvania under stay-at-home order. Gov. Wolf provided a detailed list of what is considered essential travel and individual activities that could still be performed. Healthcare, news media, law enforcement, the federal government, religious institutions and other life-sustaining businesses were exempt.
April 3, 2020: Pennsylvania residents advised to wear masks when leaving the house. The use of masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19 begins in Pennsylvania. Gov. Wolf asked residents not to wear N95 and paper masks in order to reserve them for healthcare workers.
April 22, 2020: State reopening plan announced. Gov. Wolf announces the introduction of his three-phase plan: red, yellow and green. Some counties in the northwestern and north-central areas of the state are projected to be released from stay-at-home order on May 8. A region must average fewer than 50 new positive cases per 100,000 residents to move out from under the statewide lockdown.
April 27, 2020: Golf courses and other outdoor businesses are allowed to reopen on May 1. Restrictions began to lift on outdoor activities as summer approached. Golf courses, marinas, guided fishing trips and privately owned campgrounds were able to reopen across the state. Campgrounds in state parks would remain closed until May 14. Wearing a mask and social distancing were still strongly encouraged during these activities.
May 1, 2020: Several counties begin shift from red to yellow phase. Twenty-four counties were scheduled to move from red to yellow as of May 8. Large gatherings of more than 25 people were still strictly prohibited and teleworking was to continue where feasible. At this point, non-life sustaining businesses were beginning to open in limited capacities.
July 1, 2020: Facemasks must be used in all public places. An order signed by Dr. Rachel Levine made masks a requirement whenever anyone leaves their home. This includes when individuals are outdoors and cannot maintain a six-foot distance from others.
July 3, 2020: All PA counties enter the green phase. Lebanon County was the last county in the state to enter the green phase.
July 15, 2020: Wolf imposes restrictions on bars and restaurants. Bars will close unless they offer dine-in meals and restaurants will be at a 25% capacity. Alcohol may only be served on-site with a meal. Indoor events and gatherings of more than 25 people are prohibited, with the exception of places of worship.
Aug. 19, 2020: The 2021 Pennsylvania Farm Show announces it will be held virtually. In December, it was announced that the legendary butter sculpture would not be present either. It was originally scheduled to be shown at the virtual event. Instead, the PA Farm Show invited Pennsylvania residents to participate in making their own butter sculptures at home.
Sept. 9, 2020: The Flight 93 National Memorial observance closes to the public. This was done to limit the spread of COVID-19 after consulting with the families of the victims of Flight 93. The ceremony was available via a livestream and opened to the public at the conclusion of the ceremony.
Sept. 11, 2020: Bars and restaurants are allowed to reopen to 50% capacity on Sept. 21. Businesses need to go through an online self-certification to upgrade their capacity to 50%.
Sept. 14, 2020: A federal judge ruled that Governor Wolf’s closing of businesses that were not life-sustaining is considered unconstitutional. This lawsuit was originally filed by four counties in the state: Butler, Green, Fayette and Washington. The judge said in his written opinion that Gov. Wolf’s “were undertaken with the good intention of addressing a public health emergency,” but that “even in an emergency, the authority of government is not unfettered.”
Sept. 17, 2020: The last call for alcohol sales is extended from 10 p.m. to 11 p.m. This goes into effect on Sept. 21 as restaurants and bars expand to 50% capacity. This applies to on-site alcohol consumption only and does not impact takeout alcohol sales.
Sept. 22, 2020: A federal judge denies the ruling on Pennsylvania’s crowd sizes. Judge William Stickman IV said the Wolf administration failed to show “imminent and irreparable harm will occur” if the state can’t limit event crowds to the previous metric of 25 people indoors and 250 people outdoors. This results in many high schools expanding the crowd limit for sporting events.
Oct. 1, 2020: The appeals court temporarily restores Pennsylvania’s gathering limits. “Right now, we’re back to the 250, but as I say, I’m working right now with school districts and others to do what we can to recognize the contexts that are different in every community,” Gov Wolf said.
Oct. 6, 2020: Governor Wolf amends guidelines on crowd limits. The cap of 25 people indoors and 250 people outdoors was replaced by an algorithm depending on the maximum occupancy of each individual venue, ranging from 10-25% of maximum occupancy.
Nov. 17, 2020: Travelers need to test negative for COVID-19 to enter the state. These targeted restrictions were announced by Dr. Levine, who said travelers either need to test negative for the virus within the last 72 hours or quarantine for 14 days/until they receive a negative test result. She also announced that masks are required inside even if you are socially distanced when you are with people from outside of your household.
Nov. 18, 2020: No visitors to see Punxsutawney Phil at Groundhog Day. While he will still be making his appearance, there will be no in-person attendance or guests allowed on the grounds. The live ceremony is scheduled to be broadcasted to media outlets and streamed online. However, there is an opportunity to have a cardboard-cutout version of yourself at the event.
Nov. 23, 2020: Governor Wolf restricts bars and restaurants on Thanksgiving Eve. Thanksgiving Eve is widely viewed as one of the biggest nights of the year for drinking. For 2020, Governor Wolf said bars and restaurants were not allowed to serve alcohol after 5 p.m. This announcement was made following a large spike in COVID-19 cases.
Dec. 10, 2020: The second round of COVID-19 restrictions are announced in PA. Scheduled until Jan. 4, indoor dining is prohibited and indoor gatherings are capped at 10 people. Outdoor gatherings are limited to 50 people and businesses may operate at up to 50% capacity. Places of congregate worship were excluded from these restrictions.
As the weather grew colder, some local restaurants decided to get creative with their outdoor dining methods, from dining igloos to food carts.
Jan. 12, 2021: Negative COVID-19 tests are required for air passengers entering the United States. Effective Jan. 26, the CDC ruled passengers must be tested within three days before their flight departure. They also must provide documentation of their test results before they board. This is an expansion from late December when only people entering the U.S. from the United Kingdom needed to test negative to board.
March 6, 2020: The first two positive cases emerge in PA. The first two cases of COVID-19 were identified in Delaware County and Wayne County.
March 18, 2020: First COVID-19 death in Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania Department of Health reported the first COVID-19 death from an adult in Northampton County.
Oct. 2, 2020: The president and first lady test positive for COVID-19. This news comes after one of Trump’s aides, Hope Hicks, tested positive for the virus. Those who were recently in contact with the president that tested negative include Vice President Mike Pence, second lady Karen Pence and president-elect Joe Biden.
Oct. 5, 2020: President Trump leaves Walter Reed. After staying at the hospital for three days, the president transfers to receiving care at the White House.
Oct. 14, 2020: Pennsylvania confirms a fall resurgence of COVID-19. Oct. 14 was the ninth consecutive day that the daily case count surpassed 1,000 cases. Dr. Rachel Levine said that Pennsylvania is more prepared to handle the influx than they were in the spring and that state officials had no plans to impose another statewide stay-at-home order or broad-based business shut down at that time.
Oct. 21, 2020: The first COVID-19 case in a cat is confirmed in Pennsylvania. The confirmation was announced by the Department of Agriculture. At this time, there is no evidence that animals play a significant role in spreading COVID-19 to humans.
Nov. 9, 2020: Thirty-eight counties in Pennsylvania are added to the “substantial” category for COVID-19 transmission. Several counties on the substantial list were from our viewing area: Bedford, Blair, Cambria, Centre, Elk, Huntingdon, and Jefferson. The percent-positivity rate across Pennsylvania increased to 6.9%.
Nov. 30, 2020: Pennsylvania sees over 41k cases over the course of seven days. The DOH reported a seven-day increase of 41,424 cases as of Nov. 26, with a statewide percent positivity rate of 11.7%. At this time, every county in Pennsylvania was listed at a concerning percent positivity (above 5%). Sixty-six counties out of the 67 total were placed in the substantial category for community transmission.
Dec. 9, 2020: Governor Wolf tests positive for COVID-19. The governor tested positive during a routine test. He reportedly had no symptoms and isolated at home. His wife, First Lady Frances Wolf, tested negative. Gov. Wolf would go on to test negative a few days later.
Jan. 11, 2021: Gorillas at the San Diego Zoo test positive. This is the first known instance of the virus being detected in apes.
Jan. 12, 2021: Inmates in Blair County could be released or have their sentences reduced due to COVID-19 concerns. Bail modification hearings were held for 10 defendants. One of the defendants was charged with attempted homicide — his $300,000 cash bail was reduced to an unsecured bond.
CHANGES IN SCHOOLS
March 13, 2020: Gov. Wolf orders schools to shut down for two weeks starting March 16. This announcement came shortly after closing schools in Montgomery County. At the time, there were 6 confirmed cases and 27 presumptive cases in Pennsylvania.
March 23, 2020: Schools in PA will remain closed for another two weeks until April 6 at the earliest. All Pennsylvania schools remain closed for another two weeks, with the earliest arrival date expected to be April 6.
April 9, 2020: All schools will remain closed for the remainder of the year, including colleges and universities. The Pennsylvania government urged schools to provide accommodations and a shift toward online learning. Under this change, schools no longer have to worry about the 180-day minimum for the school year.
July 2, 2020: A Penn State student residing in State College dies from COVID-19 complications. The student was tested for the virus on June 20 and died at home in Allentown.
July 7, 2020: International students risk losing their visas if their colleges and universities do not offer in-person classes. This is later rescinded by President Trump.
July 8. 2020: President Trump threatens to cut federal funding if schools don’t reopen. Trump said that Democrats want to keep schools closed because it is an election and not because of any coronavirus related risks.
Aug 3, 2020: Gov. Wolf dedicates $28 million to help postsecondary education reopen for the fall. The funds also went to adult basic education providers and will help implement public health and safety plans. The funding was through the GREER fund.
Aug. 18, 2020: Students are required to wear face coverings in school. Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine issued an order stating that face masks or shields must be worn when students cannot maintain a distance of six feet from each other.
Aug. 24, 2020: Penn State launches their COVID-19 dashboard. This gives the public access to the results of testing for students and staff. The dashboard can be broken down by each week or by each Penn State campus.
Sept. 3, 2020: Classes at Temple University move online. An uptick in cases resulted in the university shifting online for the rest of the semester.
Sept. 4, 2020: Over 150 cases are reported at Penn State. President Eric Barron said he was concerned with the increasing numbers ahead of Labor Day weekend and the implications of what could happen to the university if the trend in cases continues.
Sept. 8, 2020: An additional 205 positive cases are reported at PSU. At this time, the total was 416 positive cases at University Park.
Sept. 9, 2020: Gov. Wolf plans to veto a bill that would allow schools to make decisions regarding attendees at sporting events. The bill would allow each individual school district to establish their own safety protocols and limits on gatherings for indoor and outdoor sporting events.
Oct. 16, 2020: Penn State University develops a way to detect COVID-19 with snatch and sniff cards. Participants are supposed to be able to identify the smells on the cards. Since the loss of smell is a common symptom of the coronavirus, the inability to identify the scents may show early signs of COVID-19. The release of the product is still being finalized.
Oct. 26, 2020: Citations are issued after Penn State students had a large gathering and the event was posted on social media. State College police were called to several large gatherings during the Penn State football game against Indiana. The university is directing all students that live in these apartment buildings to get tested for COVID-19.
Jan. 7, 2021: Local universities start their semester with two weeks of remote learning. Penn State and Lock Haven University revised their reopening plans to have two weeks of fully remote learning, citing a significant increase in COVID-19 cases.
Jan. 7, 2021: Penn State University decreases its room and board rates for the spring semester. The calculations were made based on how many days students will be on campus, which is 22 less than a typical semester. As a result, the average cost was reduced by about $957. The university reports that this has a $26 million impact on housing and food service revenue.
CHANGES IN SPORTS
April 9, 2020: The PIAA cancels winter and spring sports for the 2019-2020 school year. High school athletics were halted in the middle of championships for winter sports and would not see a continuation. Spring sports had a stop placed to their season before it even began.
July 23, 2020: An athlete at Penn State tests positive. The first student-athlete to test positive has been released. The identity or sports team that the athlete was a member of was not shared.
July 27, 2020: Phillies game postponed after over a dozen MLB players test positive. After a game against the Phillies, over a dozen players and staff members of the Miami Marlins tested positive for COVID-19. The Phillies game versus the Yankees was postponed, along with the Marlins’ home opener against Baltimore.
July 29, 2020: More athletes at Penn State test positive. The total number of positive cases rises to eight student-athletes that have tested positive for coronavirus. The athletic department initially had no positive test results in its first two rounds of testing on July 1 and 15.
July 29, 2020: Fans are not expected at high school sports. Following state guidelines, the PIAA said that spectators were not part of the equation for the return to K-12 sports. If spectators were eventually allowed, social distancing must be in place and adults must wear face coverings at all times.
Aug. 6, 2020: Penn State fall sports to be held without fans. Penn State cited capacity limits for outdoor gatherings as the reason behind their decision.
Aug. 6, 2020: Gov. Wolf recommends no sports until Jan. 1. This applies to K-12 sports. This is a recommendation, not an order or a mandate. Individual school administrations and school boards should make the call.
Aug. 7, 2020: Practices for high school fall sports are pushed back two weeks. The PIAA voted to delay the season by two weeks to allow PIAA staff to engage in discussion with Gov. Wolf following his recommendation to have no sports until Jan. 1. At this point, the earliest that high school sports could start is Aug. 24. The PIAA plans to reconvene on Aug. 21 to discuss the matter further.
Aug. 11, 2020: The Big Ten postpones all fall sports. Just five days after announcing that sports would be held without fans in the stands, The Big Ten postponed sports entirely. Athletes and coaches from Penn State reacted to the sudden change.
Aug. 21, 2020: The PIAA votes to move forward with high school sports. The first day is set for Aug. 24, with the PIAA voting 25-5 in favor of the decision.
Sept. 9, 2020: Over 40 student-athletes at Penn State test positive for COVID-19. The university said that 48 students were positive in a series of tests conducted between Aug. 31 and Sept. 4. In total, 929 student-athletes were tested.
Sept. 11, 2020: A large wrestling tournament with over 2,500 people was organized in College Township. The Olympic Club Duals was held at the C3 Sports Complex with 1,200 competitors and 1,500 attendees from a variety of states, including but not limited to Florida, Arizona and California. College Township was unable to legally shut the event down and looked to the governor’s office and Pennsylvania Department of Health, but they did not shut down the event. State College police issued over 30 citations in relation to fire code infractions and health code violations.
Sept. 16, 2020: The Big Ten announces a change of plans and aims for an October start for football. The season is slated to begin on Oct. 24, where each team in the conference will have an eight-game schedule.
Oct. 22, 2020: Southern Huntingdon forfeits their district football playoff game due to COVID-19 concerns. The district canceled all of their extra-curricular activities, including athletics. As a result, Cambria Heights automatically moved forward in the playoffs.
Oct. 22, 2020: Bishop McCort also forfeits its district playoff game. They were scheduled to take on Bishop Guilfoyle. Earlier in the day, it was announced that the Bishop Guilfoyle head coach would not be on the sidelines for the game due to being exposed to someone with COVID-19. Since Bishop McCort forfeited, Bishop Guilfoyle moved on in the playoffs to face Conemaugh Valley.
Nov. 7, 2020: A staff member for the Pittsburgh Steelers tests positive. This came one day before the Steelers played the Dallas Cowboys. The staff member was quarantined and the Steelers were working with the NFL to undergo contact-tracing.
Nov. 10, 2020: Ben Roethlisberger and three other Pittsburgh Steelers are placed on the COVID-19 reserve list. Tight end Vance McDonald tested positive after their game against the Dallas Cowboys. Roethlisberger, Jerald Hawkins, Jaylen Samuels, and Vince Williams will all have to pass COVID-19 tests throughout the week for eligibility to play in their game against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Nov. 11, 2020: Maryland football players test positive after playing a game against Penn State. Maryland reported that eight players tested positive over the course of seven days. As a result, their upcoming match against Ohio State was canceled and will not be rescheduled.
Nov. 25, 2020: The Steelers Thanksgiving showdown against the Ravens is postponed. Multiple members of the Baltimore Ravens tested positive for COVID-19. They were rescheduled to play that Sunday until it got postponed again. And then again for a third time. Eventually, Pittsburgh came out on top in the game that seemed impossible on Dec. 2, winning 19-14.
Dec. 9, 2020: The Mid-Penn conference requires athletes to wear masks at all times. This includes during practice and competition. The only sport exempt from this is swimming & diving. Teams are also asked to reduce their roster sizes while on the road.
Jan. 7, 2021: Fall sports for Saint Francis is out of the question. Saint Francis University was supposed to move their fall sports season to the spring. While winter and spring sports continue as scheduled, the following teams will not have a season this academic year: cross county, field hockey, soccer, football and women’s volleyball.
Jan. 13, 2021: Penn State wrestling takes a pause. All team activities are paused as someone in what the university describes as “tier 1 personnel” tests positive for the virus. The NCAA defines this as student-athletes, coaches, athletic trainers, physical therapists, medical staff, equipment staff, and officials. They were scheduled to open the season against Rutgers.
THE VIRUS MUTATES
Jan. 7, 2021: The first case of the new COVID-19 variant is discovered in Pennsylvania. The confirmed case was in Dauphin County and is the same one that was first discovered in the United Kingdom.
Jan. 8, 2021: A Pfizer study suggests the vaccine will work against the new strain. As the virus mutates and that mutation spreads across the globe, will the new vaccine be effective? Pfizer’s preliminary study suggests it will. The Pfizer study found that the vaccine appeared to work against 15 additional possible virus mutations.
THE COVID-19 VACCINE
Sept. 16, 2020: Researchers at UPMC and the University of Pittsburgh discovered a breakthrough for the treatment and prevention of COVID-19. A drug was created from potent antibodies that can block the virus from infecting a patient’s cells.
Nov. 9, 2020: The United States allows the first emergency use of COVID-19 antibody drug. The experimental drug was approved for people ages 12 and older that have mild or moderate COVID-19 symptoms that do not require hospitalization. It is still undergoing additional testing and the FDA said it is similar to the treatment that President Donald Trump received when he had COVID-19.
Dec. 11, 2020: The Pfizer vaccine is approved. This is the first COVID-19 vaccine to be approved by the FDA. It is also the fastest-developed vaccine in history.
Dec. 13, 2020: Pfizer starts shipments to the United States. Participants must receive two doses of the vaccine within three weeks of each other. The general public is not expected to receive the vaccine until 2021.
Dec. 18, 2020: The Moderna vaccine is approved. The FDA found no severe allergic reactions in Moderna but there was a slightly higher rate of certain side effects: rash, hives, and itching.
Dec. 21, 2020: Over 17,000 Pennsylvanians receive the COVID-19 vaccine. These doses were distributed to healthcare workers at Pennsylvania hospitals.
Dec. 23, 2020: Pfizer will supply the United States with an additional 100 million doses of the vaccine. The U.S. government will pay $1.95 billion for the additional 100 million doses, bringing the total paid to Pfizer to nearly $4 billion.
Dec. 30, 2020: Dr. Rachel Levine signs an order directing a percentage of all vaccine distributions to health care personnel. Dr. Levine said there are nearly one million health care personnel across the commonwealth who directly or indirectly with patients and are eligible for the vaccine.
Dec. 30, 2020: The DOH launches a COVID-19 vaccine dashboard. The dashboard is launched to give updates on the number of vaccinations administered by county, along with demographic information. The site also defines the multiple phases of the vaccination process, and where certain occupations and conditions are in line.
Jan. 8, 2021: All six PA veteran homes start the vaccination process. Both residents and staff start to receive the vaccine. The vaccination is not required for this group – both residents and staff can opt-out.
Jan. 8, 2021: Biden plans to speed up the release of the vaccine. The president-elect said he intends to have the federal government take a stronger role to increase vaccine availability and to ensure more Americans are actually receiving the vaccine.
Jan. 12, 2021: The Trump administration asks the states to speed up the delivery of COVID-19 vaccines to those who are high-risk. They emphasized the need for the states to start vaccinating those age 65 and older and those who have chronic medical conditions. With this change at the federal level, the Pennsylvania DOH had started to incorporate these two groups into the first phase of the vaccine plan.