This illustration, created at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reveals ultrastructural morphology exhibited by coronaviruses. Note the spikes that adorn the outer surface of the virus, which impart the look of a corona surrounding the virion, when viewed electron microscopically. A novel coronavirus, named Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), was identified as the cause of an outbreak of respiratory illness first detected in Wuhan, China in 2019. The illness caused by this virus has been named coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)

December 2019

  • Wuhan Municipal Health Commission, China, reports cases of pneumonia of an unknown cause.

Jan. 9, 2020

  • A new, or “novel,” type of coronavirus is identified as the cause of viral pneumonia in Wuhan, Chinese authorities reported in the media. It is not the same as the coronaviruses that commonly circulate among humans and cause mild illness, like the common cold.

Jan. 21

  • CDC confirms 2019 novel coronavirus in the United States.

Jan. 27

  • Five people in Wisconsin are tested for 2019 novel coronavirus. (Early on the disease is referred to as 2019 Novel Coronavirus or 2019-nCoV.”)

Jan. 30

  • World Health Organization declares the novel coronavirus outbreak a public health emergency of international concern, WHO’s highest level of alarm.
  • Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex M. Azar II declares a national public health emergency.

Feb. 5

  • 2019 Novel Coronavirus confirmed in Wisconsin.

March 2

  • Wisconsin is now conducting tests for COVID-19 virus.

March 9

  • Second person in Wisconsin tests positive.

March 10

  • Third person in Wisconsin tests positive.

March 11

  • World Health Organization declares novel coronavirus (COVID-19) a pandemic. There are more than 118,000 cases in 114 countries, and 4,291 people have died.
  • Three additional cases are confirmed in Wisconsin.

March 12

  • Gov. Tony Evers declares a public health emergency.
  • In one week, confirmed cases now total seven.

March 13

  • President Donald Trump declares a National Emergency.
  • Evers directs DHS to mandate closure of all K-12 schools, public and private. Earlier in the day, DHS reported 11 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the state total to 19. Mandated closure of school buildings begins 5 p.m. March 18. Anticipated reopening is April 6.

March 14

  • Wisconsin Department of Transportation COVID-19 Relief Effort Supply Permits allow additional supplies to be transported by increasing weight limits and waiving truck driver hours-of-service limitations.

March 16

  • Gatherings of 50 or more people will be prohibited statewide. Order is effective 12:01 a.m. March 17. It includes theaters, museums, stadiums, conference rooms, meeting halls, taverns, health and fitness centers, and places of worship. Critical infrastructure and services such as grocery stores, food pantries, child care centers, pharmacies, and hospitals are exempt. Restaurants and bars are required to operate at less than 50% capacity or have fewer than 50 people, whichever is less.

March 17

  • Gatherings of 10 or more will be prohibited starting at 5 p.m. Restaurants and bars can only offer takeout or delivery. The order states schools will be closed for the duration of the public health emergency.
  • Wisconsin is seeing community spread of COVID-19. That means people tested positive but they have no exposures to a known case and they didn’t travel to a location where there is known community spread.

March 18

  • Child care centers may not operate with more than 10 staff present at a time and may not operate with more than 50 children present at a time.
  • Work search requirements are waived and requirements for unemployment insurance benefits modified for workers impacted by COVID-19.

March 19

  • Two COVID-19 deaths confirmed in Wisconsin.

March 20

  • Hair salons, day spas, nail salons, barber shops, tattoo parlors, body art establishments and tanning facilities must close effective 5 p.m.

March 22

  • Evers directs the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction to suspend administrative rules relating to hours of instruction and student teacher assessments.
  • Several utility-related administrative rules are suspended, paving the way for the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin to temporarily order further consumer protections.

March 24

  • Evers directs DHS to issue Safer at Home order.

March 27

  • Evictions and foreclosures suspended.

March 31

  • Additional shipment of personal protective equipment arrives from the Strategic National Stockpile. In total Wisconsin receives about 104,680 N95 respirators, 260,840 face/surgical masks, 48,186 face shields, 40,512 surgical gowns, 192 coveralls, and 140,750 pairs of gloves from the SNS.

April 1

  • Wisconsin Lottery cancels April Lucky Raffle, a limited-time lotto game with 50,000 tickets.

April 2

  • Department of Administration approves the Department of Workforce Development’s request for 25 additional positions to help process the unprecedented number of claims for unemployment insurance. The prior week, over 110,000 initial claims were received by DWD.

April 4

  • Wisconsin is granted a major disaster declaration.

April 6

  • Evers suspends in-person voting for April 7, moves in-person voting to June 9 and directs Legislature to meet in special session on April 7, but a Wisconsin Supreme Court ruling allows April 7 election to proceed.

April 9

  • Evers directs DNR to close 40 state parks, forests and recreational areas.
  • With Easter approaching (April 12), churches and religious entities wishing to conduct services while still complying with the governor’s order may, for example, conduct services via: parking lots with congregants staying in cars, avoiding person-to-person contact; streaming online; and having small gatherings (fewer than 10 people in each room) with multiple services.

April 16

  • Safer at Home order extended from April 24 to May 26.

April 20

  • Testing capacity increases from eight labs a month ago to 36.
  • “Badger Bounce Back” plan outlines criteria for Wisconsin to be able to reopen its economy in phases and includes steps to make sure workers and businesses are prepared to reopen as soon as it is safe to do so.

April 27

  • Nonessential businesses are allowed to do curbside drop-off of goods and animals. Outdoor recreational rentals and automatic or self-service car washes are allowed. All businesses must operate free of contact with customers by providing payment options online or over the phone, enact proper disinfecting practices, and operations must be able to be performed by one staff member.

April 28

  • DNR reopens several state parks and forests.

May 1

  • Eleven specimen collection teams from the Wisconsin National Guard are operating across Wisconsin supporting local health departments and the Wisconsin Department of Health Services to increase the state’s testing capacity.

May 4

  • Evers says he plans to make Wisconsin one of the top states in testing per capita, in addition to already being one of the top states in COVID-19 testing capacity. Wisconsin is prepared to provide 85,000 COVID-19 tests per week. To date, the state has provided over 60,000 tests to hospitals, clinics, local public health, long-term care facilities and other community partners.

May 11

  • Retail stores are allowed to offer in-person shopping for up to five customers at a time while maintaining required social distancing practices. Additionally, drive-in theaters are allowed to operate.

May 13

  • Supreme Court ruling strikes down Safer at Home order.

July 30

  • Face coverings will be required indoors (not in a private residences), with some exceptions. The order is effective at 12:01 a.m. Aug. 1 and set to expire Sept. 28.

Aug. 11

  • Wisconsin’s COVID-19 death toll surpasses 1,000.

Sept. 22

  • Evers issues a new face coverings order that will expire Nov. 21. Ages 18 to 24 have a case rate five times higher than any other age group. The significant increase has only occurred within the past month and appears to be driven by in-person social gatherings. The week prior, eight Wisconsin cities were listed among the top 20 cities in the United States where COVID-19 cases were rising fastest, and six of those eight cities have University of Wisconsin System campuses.

Oct. 6

  • Public gatherings will be limited to no more than 25% of a room or building’s total occupancy. The order goes into effect at 8 a.m. on Oct. 8 and will remain in effect until Nov. 6.

Oct. 21

  • DHS reports the highest single-day COVID-19 death count with 48 Wisconsin lives lost.
  • The first patient is admitted to the Alternate Care Facility at Wisconsin State Fair Park, which serves as the overflow facility for hospitals across the state.

Oct. 29

  • COVID-19 testing expands: 71 new free community testing sites will be available in 56 counties and seven tribal nations. The sites have the capacity to test about 48,000 people per week.

Nov. 10

  • Evers signs an order advising Wisconsinites to stay home and urges precautions to take if they have to leave their home.

Nov. 20

  • Evers declares a new face coverings order, as Wisconsin’s hospitals are operating at near or very near full capacity. Ages 5 and older are required to wear a face covering when indoors or in an enclosed space with anyone outside their household or living unit. The order expires after 60 days.
  • Wisconsin is experiencing unprecedented, near-exponential growth of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the average daily number of new cases currently at 6,254, almost double the average daily cases seen a month ago, and an increase of 260% since Sept. 20, when the average case number was 1,720.

Dec. 14

  • Wisconsin anticipates the arrival of 49,725 doses of the Pfizer vaccine with shipments expected to increase over the coming weeks and months once more supply becomes available. The first doses of the vaccine will be shipped to regional hubs across the state.
  • DHS activates the federal government’s pharmacy distribution program for the COVID-19 vaccine.

Dec. 18

  • Evers and state health officials called on the federal government to allocate more Pfizer vaccine to Wisconsin as the state was informed Wisconsin will only be receiving 35,100 doses, much less than expected after the initial doses allocated this week (49,725).

Dec. 21

  • Wisconsin is expecting shipments of the Moderna vaccine to begin arriving at hospitals and clinics across the state. The initial shipment is expected to be 16,000 doses, with state health officials planning to receive a total of 100,000 doses in the upcoming weeks. Unlike the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, the Moderna vaccine can be stored in normal freezers, which allows the vaccine to be shipped directly to vaccinating entities.

Dec. 22

  • The Alternate Care Facility in West Allis opens an outpatient Bamlanivimab Infusion Clinic. Bamlanivimab was authorized for emergency use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in November for the treatment of mild to moderate COVID-19 in adult and pediatric patients.
  • At-home COVID-19 saliva collection kits will be available to everyone who lives in Wisconsin, with or without symptoms, at no cost.

Compiled from news releases and data on websites of the World Health Organization, Health and Human Services, CDC, Gov. Tony Evers and Wisconsin’s Department of Health Services.

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