While COVID-19 had been in the news for several weeks — and had likely been spreading silently in communities for most of that time — March 11, 2020 was the day that the realities of the virus sank in for many Americans.
On the morning of March 11, COVID-19 was still a world away — an issue limited to Asia, Europe and cruise ships. By that evening, it was clear the U.S. was in for a rough few weeks.
Most — not even Dr. Anthony Fauci — could imagine that those few weeks would develop into an entire year of pain, with more than half a million Americans dead.
Here's a recap of everything that happened on March 11, 2020.
Stock Market plunges upon opening, closes with worst loss in 30 years
The stock market had been faltering for several weeks, spooked by the impact the virus was having on economy in Asia and Europe. But with evidence that the virus was set to arrive in the U.S., the stock market triggered “circuit-breaker" stoppages just moments after opening due to massive losses. The Dow would finish the day with a 10% loss — the largest single-day loss since “Black Monday” in 1987.
Fauci tells Congress that “it’s going to get worse”
At that point a mostly-anonymous public health expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci appeared on Capitol Hill on March 11 to testify before the House Oversight and Reform Committee about the dangers posed by COVID-19. Fauci’s comments startled the committee and the nation.
"I can say we will see more cases and things will get worse than they are right now," Fauci said. "How much worse we'll get will depend on our ability to do two things: to contain the influx of people who are infected coming from the outside, and the ability to contain and mitigate within our own country. Bottom line, it's going to get worse."
The comments were a grim prediction of what was to come and helped propel Fauci into the public consciousness as one of the most trusted voices in the U.S.’s response to the virus.
World Health Organization declares a global pandemic
For the first time since the discovery of the novel coronavirus, the WHO uses the term “global pandemic.” The term implies that all countries around the world will face public health challenges with COVID-19. The organization urges all countries to prepare to “detect, test, treat, isolate, trace and mobilize their people in the response" and adopt public health policies to stop the spread.
NCAA closes basketball tournament to fans, putting March Madness in doubt
With college basketball in the midst of its postseason, the NCAA announces that no fans will be in attendance during the men’s and women’s basketball tournaments. The tournaments are typically a financial boom for the organization, bringing in hundreds of thousands of fans annually.
Several conferences also announce their postseason tournament will also take place without fans. The Ivy League cancels its tournament altogether and announces Yale, the regular-season conference winner, will go to the NCAA tournament.
The next day, the NCAA would cancel its postseason tournament for the first time since its inception in 1939.
Tom Hanks, Rita Wilson announce they have COVID-19
In an Instagram post, Tom Hanks announces he and his wife Rita Wilson have contracted COVID-19 — perhaps the highest-profile celebrity to contract the virus to that point.
“To play things right, as is needed in the world right now, we were tested for the Coronavirus, and were found to be positive,” Hanks wrote.
Hanks and Wilson, who were in Australia working on a movie, said they would begin isolation. They later recovered from the virus.
President Donald Trump shuts down travel to Europe
In a hastily announced primetime address, President Donald Trump announces he is shutting down travel to Europe, where COVID-19 is quickly spreading. The restriction will go into effect two days later, on March 13.
During his address, Trump also mistakenly says cargo shipping to Europe will also be closed, causing a temporary panic. The White House quickly clarifies in a statement that commercial shipping will continue.
"After consulting with our top government health professionals, I have decided to take several strong but necessary actions to protect the health and wellbeing of all Americans," Trump said.
For the next few days, American travelers abroad in Europe pack airports in the hopes of getting home before the deadline, even though American citizens, their family members and green card holders are not covered under the restrictions.
NBA suspends its season
Moments before the Utah Jazz and Oklahoma City Thunder were set to tip off a game, players fail to take the floor. Minutes later, the league announces a Jazz player has tested positive for COVID-19 and the game has been canceled.
The announcement sends shockwaves through the league. Reports later indicate the player who tested positive is Rudy Gobert — a player who just days before his positive test had mocked the virus by touching every reporter's microphone during an interview.
Hours later, the NBA announces it is halting its season “until further notice.” They’re the first North American sports league to announce season suspension. Other leagues would soon follow suit.
In the days following, states began to announce restrictions on public gatherings and businesses. Bars and restaurants were shuttered. Other entertainment venues were closed. Offices told workers to begin working from home.
Many of those restrictions remain in place one year later. The good news? There appears to be some light at the end of the tunnel — three vaccines have proven to be safe and effective and have been approved for emergency use, and case rates have been falling for several weeks.
It may have taken longer than anyone expected, but there's hope for normalcy in the near future.