This article was originally published on March 24, 2019. It was last updated March 30, 2020.

The outbreak of the new coronavirus disease 2019 (abbreviated COVID-19) has made tens of thousands of people worldwide (and counting) sick, with thousands dead and the crisis deepening daily. Officials have declared the disease a worldwide pandemic. The virus has risen to prominence in the District of Columbia and surrounding region in a few short weeks, taxing healthcare infrastructure and taking a severe toll on the economy. Amid daily and even hourly news during a time with many of the region’s residents social-distancing at home, the D.C. Policy Center has compiled a high-level perspective on the timeline of the local crisis.

Jump to:


The novel coronavirus emerges


The new coronavirus emerged in China, at a seafood and poultry market. Within two months, it spread throughout the world causing deaths and severe economic hardship.


Late 2019


January 2020


February 2020





COVID-19’s arrival in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan region


By early March, the virus had arrived in local Washington, D.C. area. Closings, shutdowns, and emergency measures followed rapidly as officials worked to reduce transmission of the virus through social distancing, and prepare the region for the pandemic’s health and economic impacts. Items specific to the District of Columbia are styled in bold.


Saturday, March 7


Wednesday, March 11


Friday, March 13


Sunday, March 15


Monday, March 16


Tuesday, March 17


Wednesday, March 18


Thursday, March 19


Friday, March 20


Sunday, March 22


Monday, March 23


Tuesday, March 24


Thursday, March 26


Monday, March 30




Looking ahead: Postponements and deadlines


Monday, April 27


Tuesday, June 30


Wednesday, July 15


Monday, July 20



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D.C. Policy Center Fellows are independent writers, and we gladly encourage the expression of a variety of perspectives. The views of our Fellows, published here or elsewhere, do not reflect the views of the D.C. Policy Center.

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