An oral history of March 11, 2020, and the start of the COVID era

Warnings of a pneumonia outbreak in Wuhan, China, began quietly in December 2019. Over the weeks and months that followed, more information about this new form of coronavirus spread across the globe. For many Americans, however, the reality of the pandemic did not set in until March 11, 2020, when a confluence of major developments converged to cause a major shift in our way of life. One year later, Yahoo News has compiled an oral history of the events that ushered in “the new normal.”

Video transcript


- Viral pneumonia has hit central China's Wuhan City. Authorities have reported 27 cases in total.

- It's a new type of coronavirus.

- Mystery virus they'd hope to contain, but one we now know can jump from human to human.

DONALD TRUMP: It's one person coming in from China, and we have it under control. It's going to be just fine.

ADAM SILVER: It seemed like this was an issue contained to China.

ROBIN ROBERTS: The city at the center of the outbreak in China, and two others, going on lockdown.

- The risk is low in the United States. The risk is low.

JOHN BERMAN: So at least 565 people are dead and more than 28,000 infected with coronavirus around the world, that's if the Chinese are telling the truth.

ANTHONY FAUCI: Should we have been more aggressive with China and put their feet to the fire? I mean, obviously, history has told us that the president was not interested in doing that.

DONALD TRUMP: I had a great conversation last night with President Xi.

I really believe they are going to have it under control fairly soon. You know, in April, supposedly, it dies with the hotter weather.

JAKE TAPPER: The Centers for Disease Control says the coronavirus is going to spread in the United States, but the White House today said that it's contained.

KAVITA PATEL: Our country couldn't accept or would not accept the implications of what we were finding.

- One person with coronavirus in King County, Washington state, has died.

BILL HEMMER: Nine Americans now have died.

JEROME ADAMS: 11 people have died from coronavirus.

DAVID MUIR: Tonight, the first containment zone here in America, within a one mile radius in the New York suburb of New Rochelle.

NOAM BRAMSON: And then, suddenly, here it was in our own community.

- Here's what's making headlines on this March 11.

- Good morning, on this Wednesday, March the 11th.

- Wednesday, March 11.

HODA KOTB: Hope you guys are exhaling, taking a minute for yourselves in the midst of all the chaos and confusion.

ANTHONY FAUCI: I just looked at my notes from that day, and it was a most unusual day. I was testifying before the House Energy and Commerce Oversight and Reform hearing.

And during that hearing I said, we will see more cases, and things will get worse than they are right now. How much worse it will 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.

I had to say it because it was the truth.

KAVITA PATEL: On March 11, it became real for the entire country.

BARRON LERNER: That's just when so many people just said, it's time to take this very seriously.

STEPHEN A. SMITH: Yo, this is more serious than I thought it was.

OLIVIA TROYE: March 11, we-- we knew that the WHO were going to call it a pandemic.

TEDROS ADHANOM GHEBREYESUS: COVID-19 can be characterized as a pandemic.

OLIVIA TROYE: The vice president was initially going to do the press conference, but then we were told that the president would be doing the address. And it just kept getting questioned. It eventually turns into an Oval address that night.

DONALD TRUMP: To keep new cases from entering our shores, we will be suspending all travel from Europe to the United States for the next 30 days.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULUS: That headline struck me as just a stunning move.

TOM BOSSERT: He's now taking it seriously. He's hit this inflection point.

BARRON LERNER: You go home and you start reading, and you read the newspaper and you see the TV, and you're like, oh my god, this is really happening.

- We are hearing that they're going to make an announcement soon that this game is not being played.

ADAM SILVER: I had so little time to make that decision. I didn't have time to convene a board meeting or call experts for advice. There were 19,000 people sitting in an arena, waiting to find out whether this game was going to happen.

- The game tonight has been postponed.


You're all safe.


And take your time in leaving the arena tonight.

- The word that just came out just moments ago is the NBA is going to temporarily suspend the season, for now.

ADAM SILVER: There's a shot that stands out in my head of Mark Cuban, who is sitting courtside at one of the games, and, clearly, he gets a text message.

- You could see right here the reaction from Mark Cuban.

MARK CUBAN: This is crazy. This can't be true. I mean, it's not within the realm of possibilities. It's just-- it seemed more like out of a movie than reality.

CHRIS CUOMO: This will put a human face on it, OK. Tom Hanks just tweeted. He and his wife, Rita, are in Australia.

- The actor, Tom Hanks, and his wife, Rita Wilson, are currently in a Gold Coast hospital, and they have been diagnosed with coronavirus.

- Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson.

SEAN HANNITY: Tom Hanks, his wife, Rita Wilson, they have tested positive for coronavirus. By the way, they are in our prayers tonight.

ANTHONY FAUCI: There was such a confluence of things in this country.

BARRON LERNER: You almost felt like you were starting to go downhill in a barrel a little bit.

NOAM BRAMSON: And, um, that sense of shock may have been necessary to pull people into this new reality.

KEVITA PATEL: All of a sudden, what seemed so far away in China or in Europe, it was incredibly clear that it was here. And even if you didn't believe it, then just looking around you-- your world had changed forever.

MIKA BRZEZINSKI: It is Thursday, March 12. The coronavirus has now entered a devastating new phase.

- The US death toll from the virus has surpassed 100 people.

DAVID MUIR: 20,000.

BRIAN WILLIAMS: More than 46,000.

WOLF BLITZER: 150,000.

- 200,000.

- 400,000 people have now died from COVID-19.

JOE BIDEN: 500,071 dead.