SAN ANTONIO – This was a year unlike any other. Find more stories wrapping up 2020 here.
As we come to the end of 2020 and look back at the year of COVID-19 news, the headlines ranged from President Donald Trump saying there’s “no reason to panic,” to the U.S. recording more daily deaths from COVID-19 than D-Day or 9/11.
The following stories are some of the biggest headlines of 2020 — stories that showed the major turning points regarding lockdowns, death tolls, resurgences and vaccines.
From the first COVID-19 death to the first vaccination rollout, here are 22 of the biggest and most impactful headlines this year, listed by date.
President Donald Trump sought to reassure Americans after the first U.S. death due to COVID-19 was announced on Feb. 29. He encouraged Americans not to alter their daily routines, saying the country is “super prepared” for a wider outbreak, adding “there’s no reason to panic at all,” according to the Associated Press.
San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg and Bexar County Nelson Wolff issued a local state of disaster and public health emergency for San Antonio and Bexar County on March 2. It prohibited anyone who quarantined at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland from entering the public. It was announced hours after a COVID-19-positive evacuee was released to the community for 12 hours.
The World Health Organization declared the global coronavirus crisis a pandemic on March 11. At that time, the case count outside China had reached 118,000, including 1,000 in the U.S.
Nirenberg ordered bars, restaurant dining rooms and retail businesses to close on March 18. “We are now entering the most difficult phase in the rapidly changing battle against the virus,” Nirenberg said. At that time, the city had recorded 11 virus cases.
A woman in her 80s who was infected with COVID-19 died at a hospice facility on March 21. She had been treated at Brooke Army Medical Center before she was moved to the hospice facility.
Aerial footage of San Antonio Food Bank distribution site a stark reminder of economic crisis during pandemic
On April 9, the San Antonio Food Bank held a mega distribution event at Trader’s Village to help more than 5,000 families affected by the pandemic. Aerial footage showed cars fill the then-closed flea market’s parking lot, waiting bumper-to-bumper as volunteers handed out food. The images and videos gained traction online, prompting celebrities to raise money for the food bank.
Dawn Emerick, the then-director of Metro Health, warned that San Antonio was seeing a spike in virus cases as businesses reopened. “We’re seeing a spike. This is not gradual,” she said on June 11. She also credited the increase of cases to gatherings during the Memorial Day weekend.
New Bexar County executive order mandates face coverings at all businesses when social distancing is not possible
Wolff and Nirenberg on June 17 announced a new executive order that mandated businesses to implement a health policy. The policy required face coverings for staff and visitors “when in an area or performing an activity which will necessarily involve close contact.”
A June 18 report from CNBC named the San Antonio metropolitan area as one of the top five U.S. hotspots for COVID-19 cases due to a rapid case increase. At that time, the city had 5,962 cases.
San Antonio’s death toll reached 100 on June 23. Also on that day, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott confirmed 5,000 new virus cases across the state, the most recorded in a single day at that time.
On June 26, Abbott told KVIA in El Paso that he regretted reopening bars as quickly as he did. “If I could go back and redo anything, it probably would have been to slow down the opening of bars, now seeing in the aftermath of how quickly the coronavirus spread in the bar setting,” Abbott told the station.
As Bexar County recorded its highest amount of new daily cases on June 27, officials urged residents to stay home and wear face coverings. The city reported 795 new COVID-19 cases that evening, bringing the city’s total number of cases to 9,652. “This action is reserved only for emergencies, and we have clearly reached emergency status,” Nirenberg said after the alert went out.
Texas governor issues statewide mandate for face masks in counties with more than 20 coronavirus cases
On July 2, Abbott issued a statewide order that required Texans in counties with 20 or more cases to wear face coverings in public spaces. At that time, the majority of counties met that threshold. Before the mask mandate, Abbott encouraged the use of face coverings but stopped short of issuing an order that required them. San Antonio and Bexar County officials deployed an emergency alert to cell phones when the mandate went into effect.
The Miracle League of San Antonio on July 5 said 17-year-old Isaac Flores, the son of Coach Frank Flores, passed away due to complications with the coronavirus. At the time, Flores was the youngest person to die from the virus in San Antonio. The city’s website states that 0.4% of virus deaths fall in the 10-19 age group, as of Dec. 17.
On July 10, Fiesta San Antonio decided to officially pull the plug on the 2020 event. It had been moved from April to November with the hope that the pandemic would calm down by then. But with a resurgence over the summer, officials said it could not take place after all. “It is with a heavy heart that we must announce Fiesta San Antonio will not take place in 2020,” officials said in a Facebook post. This year marked the first time Fiesta was canceled since World War II.
Local officials reported on July 13 that refrigerated trucks were on standby as hospitals and morgues ran out of space for bodies. On that day, the city’s case count surpassed 20,000.
City of San Antonio Assistant City Manager Maria Villagomez told council members on Aug. 11 that the city should expect to spend $492 million over three years in COVID-19-related expenses. That tally included everything from testing costs to the $191 million “recovery & resiliency” plan the city council passed in June.
Texas surpassed 10,000 confirmed coronavirus deaths on Aug. 17, the fourth state to do so behind New York, New Jersey and California.
President Donald Trump on Oct. 2 said that he and first lady Melania Trump tested positive for the coronavirus. “Tonight, @FLOTUS and I tested positive for COVID-19. We will begin our quarantine and recovery process immediately,” Trump tweeted just before 1 a.m. “We will get through this TOGETHER!” He was later transported to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, but was released Oct. 5.
The U.S. on Dec. 11 gave the final go-ahead to the nation’s first COVID-19 vaccine, this one from Pfizer Inc. and its German partner BioNTech. The move set off the largest vaccination campaign in U.S. history, with vaccines arriving in states by Dec. 14. The U.S. cleared a second COVID-19 vaccine, from Moderna Inc., by Dec. 18.
Abbott on Dec. 2 said Texas is expected to receive more than 1.4 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines in December. “The State of Texas is already prepared for the arrival of a COVID-19 vaccine, and will swiftly distribute these vaccines to Texans who voluntarily choose to be immunized,” Abbott said. The initial distribution of the vaccine began on the week of Dec. 13.
Nearly 6,000 doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine were delivered to UT Health San Antonio on Dec. 14, one of only four facilities in Texas to receive a vaccine delivery that day. The facility began administering vaccinations the following day. Two weeks ago, nearly 30,000 doses of the Pfizer-made vaccine were shipped to San Antonio-area hospitals and military bases.
More than 30,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine, the second to be approved by federal regulators, were expected to be shipped to hospitals, urgent care clinics and H-E-B pharmacies in Bexar County last week. Also last week, an additional 5,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine were shipped to Bexar County hospitals
The U.S. recorded 3,124 deaths on Dec. 9, the highest one-day total up to that point in the pandemic, according to Johns Hopkins University. The toll eclipsed American deaths on the opening day of the Normandy invasion during World War II — 2,500, out of some 4,400 Allied dead — and it topped the toll on Sept. 11, 2001, 2,977, according to the AP.