From the Field

What is the coronavirus? Facts, symptoms, and how to help

Coronavirus is a family of viruses, which can cause the common cold or more severe diseases such as severe acute respiratory syndrome, Middle East respiratory syndrome, and the coronavirus disease, COVID-19.

The COVID-19 pandemic has sickened more than 203 million people globally and claimed the lives of more than 4.2 million people worldwide. The United States has the largest number of cases in the world — over 35 million — and more than 617,000 deaths.

The country with the next highest case count is India, where the crisis deepened with a second wave of infections that set records for the world’s largest one-day rise in new cases, surpassing 300,000 and hitting a high of more than 414,000 cases May 7. The rapid rise of the delta variant has contributed to the surge in cases in India. This highly transmissible variant is also now the dominant strain around the globe, including the U.S.

COVID-19 is a contagious disease that causes mild to severe respiratory symptoms with fever, cough, and shortness of breath. It spreads primarily by person-to-person contact through respiratory droplets that become airborne when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or speaks.

The COVID-19 pandemic has reversed years of progress in the fight against poverty, and it’s jeopardized the future of a generation of children.

Worldwide, World Vision is working diligently in all its program areas to keep all children safe from infection. Our coronavirus response aims to help at least 72 million people, half of them children. We’ve already served over 66 million people, including more than 28 million children.

In India, we’ve helped 4.8 million people through our COVID-19 response since March 2020. We’re also scaling up our efforts there to support hospitals and community centers amid the surge in cases.

The deployment of COVID-19 vaccines is raising hopes for recovery around the world. World Vision’s excited at the global potential for these vaccines to change and save lives. The development and introduction of safe vaccines are key to protecting the world’s most vulnerable people and restoring hope and livelihoods.

Help people made more vulnerable by the coronavirus.

FAQs: Facts about the coronavirus pandemic and COVID-19

Find answers to frequently asked questions about the coronavirus, facts about the coronavirus disease COVID-19, and how World Vision is responding to the pandemic.

Fast facts: Coronavirus and COVID-19

  • The coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, was first identified on December 31, 2019.
  • The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak a public health emergency of international concern on January 30, 2020. The WHO later declared a pandemic, meaning it is spreading globally, on March 11, 2020.
  • COVID-19 is the first pandemic since the 2009 swine flu (H1N1) pandemic. Unlike COVID-19, H1N1 mostly affected children and young adults.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic pushed an additional 97 million people into extreme poverty in 2020, according to World Bank estimates.
  • Experts estimate that the pandemic added up to 161 million people to the ranks of the undernourished in 2020.
  • More than 90% of the global student population has been affected by coronavirus-related school closures. And only 12% of households in least developed countries have internet access at home.
  • More than 4.4 billion vaccine doses have been administered around the world, including the United States.


How can I help people made more vulnerable by the coronavirus?

The coronavirus pandemic, like earlier epidemics of Zika and Ebola, is causing illness and death in many nations. Where children are left without adequate care and support, they may be forced into desperate situations, including dropping out of school and resorting to working, begging, or other exploitative situations to survive. You can help people made more vulnerable by the coronavirus:

  • Pray: Lord, we come to You to intercede for Your precious children affected by the coronavirus disease and its secondary effects. Bring comfort and healing to all who are suffering, and peace to family members and friends of people affected.
  • Give: Your donation to World Vision will help limit the spread of COVID-19 and reduce its impact on vulnerable children and their families in the U.S. and abroad.


What is the coronavirus?

Coronavirus is a family of viruses, some of which can infect people and animals, named for crownlike spikes on their surfaces.

A novel coronavirus is a new coronavirus that has not been previously identified, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The 2019 novel coronavirus is SARS-CoV-2, named by the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses. While it may have been in animals for a while, it was first discovered in humans in late 2019.


What is COVID-19?

COVID-19 is a new disease caused by a novel member of the coronavirus family — SARS-CoV-2 — that’s a close cousin to the SARS and MERS viruses that have caused outbreaks in the past. “CO” stands for corona, “VI” for virus, “D” for disease, and “19” refers to 2019, the year in which it was first discovered.


What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

Symptoms of COVID-19 include respiratory illness with fever, cough, and difficulty breathing. Sometimes people experience chills and shaking, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, or a new loss of sense of taste or smell. In severe cases, COVID-19 can cause pneumonia and severe acute respiratory syndrome. People with chronic health conditions and the elderly are more likely than others to have a life-threatening case of the disease.


What do I need to know about coronavirus variants?

Viruses evolve over time and change as they spread and replicate. Some disappear. The CDC tracks and continues to monitor those changes, called variants. The World Health Organization also names notable variants after letters of the Greek alphabet.

There are four notable variants in the U.S., according to the CDC:

  • B.1.1.7 (alpha): Initially identified in the United Kingdom, the alpha variant was then detected in the U.S. in December 2020.
  • B.1.351 (beta): The beta variant was initially discovered in South Africa in December 2020 and then identified in the U.S. at the end of January 2021.
  • P.1 (gamma): The gamma variant was initially discovered in travelers from Brazil, who were tested during routine screening at an airport in Japan in early January. It emerged in the U.S. in January 2021.
  • B.1.617.2 (delta): The delta variant was initially identified in India in December 2020 and then detected in the U.S. in March 2021.

These variants seem to spread easier and quicker than other variants. When viruses mutate, most changes are not concerning. However, there’s concern by public health experts, like the CDC, that some variants will evolve enough to be more contagious, cause more serious illness, or evade the protection that vaccines provide. So far, studies suggest that the currently authorized vaccines work against the circulating variants.


Can you tell me more about the delta variant?

The delta variant is a version of the coronavirus that has been identified in more than 132 countries around the world. It was first detected in India in December 2020.

It’s responsible for a majority of new cases in the U.S., according to the CDC, which described the delta variant as being as transmissible as the chickenpox.

A CDC report shows the delta variant as highly contagious, likely more severe than other variants and breakthrough infections. Still, the CDC maintains that vaccines are highly effective in preventing serious illness, hospitalization, and death.


Why is the coronavirus worse than the flu?

Although the seasonal flu spreads globally like the coronavirus, the mortality rate for the flu is much lower and more people have immunity. While both are contagious respiratory illnesses, they are caused by different viruses. The flu is caused by infection with an influenza virus, while COVID-19 is the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2. COVID-19 is more infectious and often causes more serious illnesses, according to the CDC.


How can I prevent getting the coronavirus?

The World Health Organization has the following recommendations for the general public to reduce exposure to and transmission of a range of illnesses, including the coronavirus:

  • Frequently clean your hands by using soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub. (Learn how to wash your hands properly!)
  • If you are not fully vaccinated, practice physical distancing (not social distancing, here’s why!) by limiting your time in public places to essential trips, staying at least 6 feet from other people, and not greeting others with a handshake or other touch.
  • When coughing and sneezing, cover your mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or tissue. Then throw the tissue away immediately and wash your hands.
  • Avoid close contact with anyone who has a fever and cough.
  • If you have a fever, cough, and difficulty breathing, seek medical care early.
  • Avoid the consumption of raw or undercooked animal products. Handle raw meat, milk, and animal organs with care to avoid cross-contamination with uncooked foods, per good food safety practices.


Should I wear a mask?

Federal health officials continue to emphasize safety measures, like wearing a mask for people who are not fully vaccinated (two weeks past the final dose), to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. In public, the CDC recommends that people who aren’t yet fully vaccinated wear well-fitted masks over their nose and mouth, avoid large gatherings, and physically distance themselves from others.

New CDC guidance released July 21, 2021, recommends people vaccinated against the coronavirus wear masks indoors when in public spaces in areas where the spread of the virus is “substantial” or “high,” regardless of one’s vaccination status. Also, the CDC recommends “universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to schools, regardless of vaccination status.”

The CDC provides this link to learn more about the spread of the virus in local communities.

If you have not been fully vaccinated, the CDC continues to recommend wearing a mask when around people who don’t live in your household, even if you don’t feel sick. Some people who have the disease may not develop symptoms or may not be showing symptoms yet.

Authorities caution that wearing a cloth mask or one commonly used for household cleaning or construction provides some protection, but it’s not a sure way to avoid contracting the disease.

So even when wearing a mask, avoid touching your face and continue to follow handwashing, physical distancing, and shelter-at-home orders for your location.


Where did the coronavirus come from?

The National Health Commission in China informed the World Health Organization on January 11, 2020, that the coronavirus outbreak is linked with exposure to a seafood and live animal market in Wuhan in December 2019. Coronaviruses are common in people and many species of animals, including camels, cattle, cats, and bats, according to the CDC. Rarely, animal coronaviruses infect people and then spread person-to-person, such as with MERS, SARS, and COVID-19. All three of these viruses are betacoronaviruses, which have their origins in bats.


What’s the latest update on COVID-19 vaccines?

Drugmakers around the world raced to find safe and effective vaccines against the coronavirus disease. Currently, there are three vaccines authorized for emergency use for adults in the United States by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In mid-May, the FDA also authorized the Pfizer vaccine for children as young as 12.

Since the start of the pandemic, the federal government has been working through Operation Warp Speed to develop COVID-19 vaccines that are safe and effective for the American public. The CDC has also provided recommendations to federal, state, and local governments about who should be vaccinated first because of limited supplies, with each state rolling out individualized plans.

The introduction of COVID-19 vaccines to vulnerable people globally will enormously benefit the hundreds of millions of children who’ve been made much more vulnerable by the pandemic by giving them a lifeline to return to their childhoods. Vaccines are a game changer for children as they allow them to resume school and families to recover their livelihoods.

As a global and grassroots organization, World Vision has extensive experience confronting pandemics, supporting vaccination programs, and improving child health. We’re gearing up, alongside our partners, to implement immunization campaigns and ensure communities understand the benefits of a COVID-19 vaccination.


What’s the difference between an outbreak, epidemic, and pandemic?

When even one case of a contagious virus is diagnosed in a new location and determined to be locally transmitted, it’s an outbreak. When it spreads rapidly to many people, that’s an epidemic. A pandemic occurs when it spreads globally. The World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic on March 11, 2020.

What is a pandemic? According to the WHO, a pandemic can occur when three conditions have been met:

  1. A disease emerges that is new to the population.
  2. The virus infects humans, causing serious illness.
  3. The virus spreads easily and sustainably among humans. Most people will not have immunity to the virus.

The WHO is extremely careful about when to declare a pandemic. It seeks to avoid creating a panic that a declaration can bring. However, a declaration can also spur countries and individuals into action to do more to prevent the spread of the virus.

When the worldwide spread of COVID-19 halts and is fully under control, the WHO is expected to officially announce the end of the pandemic.

Viruses that have caused past pandemics typically originated from animal influenza viruses. The 2009 swine flu pandemic is estimated to have killed hundreds of thousands of people.


How have governments tried to control the spread of the virus?

Governments have taken extraordinary measures to control COVID-19 as it has spread around the world, both within countries and across borders. They’ve required the closing of nonessential businesses, required populations to shelter at home, and restricted travel. The World Health Organization has been working with governments to track the spread of the disease and advise health authorities.


How is World Vision responding to the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S.?

World Vision is supplying Family Emergency Kits to vulnerable families from strategic locations throughout the U.S., including Seattle, New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles. School districts identify families that qualify for free or reduced-cost school meals, and churches host the distributions. Each kit includes nutritious food for a family of five for a week, as well as hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, first-aid antiseptic, paper products, and children’s games and school supplies.

“It’s a unique time because we are seeing the impact of the crisis right in our own backyard — affecting our neighbors, schools, and churches,” says Edgar Sandoval Sr., president and CEO of World Vision U.S. “We want to bring hope like never before, trusting in God, uniting in prayer, and moving swiftly to help those who are the most vulnerable here in the U.S. and around the world.”

As of June 2021, World Vision has distributed more than 3.6 million Fresh Food Boxes to nearly 14.3 million people across the U.S through a network of over 1,300 churches. Also, 75,400 Family Emergency Kits, serving more than 260,750 children and adults, were distributed through 51 church partners.

“We can’t give anybody high fives because of the social distancing measures that are in place, but this kindness, the act of love will go a long way and help alleviate some of those fears that exist,” says Alan Conley, the director of Faith-Based Initiatives for Chicago Public Schools.

World Vision’s also distributed more than 2.5 million items of personal protective equipment to healthcare systems, first responders, and schools across the U.S., including a distribution to the Navajo Nation.

Please consider donating today to help procure, ship, and distribute emergency protective supplies for preventing the spread of the coronavirus in the United States.


How is World Vision responding to the coronavirus pandemic worldwide?

World Vision’s COVID-19 response is the top priority in every country where we work. Our $350 million 18-month response aims to support over 72 million people — half of them children — in more than 70 countries to combat the impact of the virus.

Our global response has four main programmatic areas, which are adapted based on context and local need: scaling up preventive measures to slow the spread, strengthening healthcare systems and workers, supporting children impacted by the effects of the pandemic, and collaborating and advocating with partners to ensure that vulnerable children get the care they need.

We’re most concerned about countries where the health systems and monitoring are weak, where people may already be suffering from diseases that are common among the poor, such as malaria, tuberculosis, pneumonia, HIV and AIDS, and Ebola, or where severe malnutrition compromises immune systems. Countries with effective health systems are in a much better position to monitor, identify, and treat people with the respiratory disease, as well as to prevent its spread.

Even as we respond to immediate needs, we won’t be able to start restoring economies and building back until global access to coronavirus vaccines, tests, and treatments for everyone who needs them is guaranteed.


How is World Vision responding to the COVID-19 pandemic in India?

World Vision has already distributed safety and sanitizing aid to 4.8 million people in India to help them cope with the impacts of COVID-19. The world’s second-most populous country has more than 31.9 million cases.

As India’s COVID-19 daily infection rates reach devastating levels and severely overwhelm the healthcare system, World Vision is increasing aid to support hospitals, healthcare, and community centers with personal protective equipment (PPE), surgical masks, and sanitizing supplies. We’re continuing to support vulnerable families with cash and voucher assistance to ensure people can access food during restrictions.

“The recent spike in COVID-19 cases confirms that India is going through one of the toughest phases in the crisis,” says Madhav Bellamkonda, national director for World Vision in India.

There’s a greater risk of COVID-19 spreading from hotspots like Delhi, where hospitals have been overwhelmed and run short of oxygen, into poorer populous states where health services aren’t fully staffed with medical resources.

We’re providing 118 healthcare centers with 1,687 oxygen concentrators to help with the shortage. We’re also scaling up our distribution of 2,590 tents, and temporary structures for COVID-19 patients and helping hospitals secure spaces for testing and administering vaccines. More than 10,396 PPE kits have been distributed to hospitals and medical centers.

And we’re continuing to care for children and their families through our psychosocial support programs and regularly monitoring their health and safety.

Vaccine hesitancy, misinformation, and an expected shortage are impacting roll-out efforts and pose a challenge to lowering the rising number of cases.

Read Relevant magazine’s interview with Franklin Jones, head of disaster management for World Vision in India, on how the church can take the lead in India’s COVID-19 crisis.


How is the pandemic affecting children in India?

World Vision is deeply concerned about the emerging child protection issues of children who have lost parents due to COVID-19, as they’re at risk of being forced into trafficking, illegal adoption, child marriage, and child labor.

At least 3,600 children have lost both parents to COVID-19 and 26,000 children have lost one parent between April 1, 2020, and June 5, 2021, according to India’s National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights. Experts caution that India’s pandemic data is vastly underestimated, and World Vision fears that many more children are affected.

What’s also concerning are reported cases of social media messages with details of children that encourage people to adopt them, circumventing India’s well-established legal procedures for adoption. World Vision is calling on India’s government to bring children affected under their care for observation and monitoring before decisions about custody are made.

“All stakeholders should come together to end violence against children and create a protective environment for them to thrive,” says Joseph Wesley, head of the anti-trafficking program for World Vision in India.

In addition, the second wave of infections showed a rapid surge of infections in children as the coronavirus spread quickly within families.

“We sincerely lack the data to substantiate how the disease is affecting them at this point of time, but close to 20% of our current cases are children less than 18 years. Biggest challenge is to get a consultation with a pediatrician, especially in subdistricts and rural areas where the physicians are scarce and overwhelmed,” says Dr. Carel Joseph, director of health for World Vision in India.

In addition, the inability to access proper medication to treat children is a challenge.

“If the parents who are breadwinners are sick and livelihood is lost, it impacts their children’s lives and pose[s] challenge to food security, education, protection, and emotional support,” says Carel. “… To contain the pandemic we should advocate vaccination. Children are not safe if their families are not safe and not vaccinated.”

Read about a girl’s unsaid goodbye to her father, who died of COVID-19 in India.


While children are not the most vulnerable to this virus, they are very vulnerable to its secondary effects, like the strain put on health facilities that are already poorly equipped. Children whose caregivers get sick or die will be at higher risk of malnutrition, diseases, abuse, and exploitation. As their caregivers become fearful and anxious about the pandemic, this can adversely affect children — as they observe their caregivers’ behaviors and emotions for cues on how to manage their feelings.

From our experience working through the Zika and Ebola epidemics, and the HIV and AIDS pandemic, we know these circumstances have the potential to force children into desperate situations, including dropping out of school and resorting to working, begging, or other exploitative situations to survive.

World Vision is working diligently to keep children safe. Through our child sponsorship programs, we are:

  1. Assessing local situations and responding in the most appropriate ways
  2. Training staff, community volunteers, and partners on preventing COVID-19 and accessing care and treatment
  3. Working with local health authorities and community organizations to spread accurate information about COVID-19 to families and communities

“Encouraging practices to prevent the spread of COVID-19 among families and communities, helping support local health systems, and ensuring community safety nets exist to care for and protect vulnerable children are our main tools to fight the impact of this virus on sponsored children and their communities,” explains Jaisankar Sarma, head of child sponsorship field programming for World Vision.

Current child sponsors: Learn four things you can do to help your sponsored child during the coronavirus pandemic.


Coronavirus and COVID-19 timeline

December 2019

  • December 31: In Wuhan, China, reports surface of people with pneumonia due to an unknown cause. Between December 31 and January 3, national authorities in China report 44 cases to the World Health Organization.

January 2020

  • January 9: The first confirmed death from the outbreak occurs.
  • January 11: The National Health Commission in China informs the WHO that the outbreak is linked with exposure to the seafood and live animal market in Wuhan. Meanwhile, Chinese authorities identify a novel (new) coronavirus.
  • January 12: Chinese health officials share the genetic sequence of the novel coronavirus for countries to use in developing specific diagnostic kits.
  • January 21: The WHO confirms 314 cases of the coronavirus, 309 of which are in China. Other countries reporting cases include Thailand, Japan, and the Republic of Korea. The CDC also confirms that a person in Washington state who returned from Wuhan on January 15 tested positive for the respiratory disease. The death toll rises to six. Many people affected have underlying health issues, according to Reuters.
  • January 24: Reported cases increase to 846 around the world. The majority, 830 cases, are in China. Singapore and Viet Nam report their first cases, and a second case is identified in the U.S. — a person who lives in Illinois and recently visited Wuhan. The death toll increases to 25.
  • January 25: The WHO confirms 1,320 cases globally. Australia, Nepal, and France report their first cases. A third U.S. case is identified in Orange County, California — a person who had recently traveled to Wuhan. Forty-one people have died so far, all in China.
  • January 28: Global cases jump to 4,593, with 4,537 in China. The death toll increases to 106, and three more countries — Cambodia, Sri Lanka, and Germany — report cases.
    • WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping and commends China’s “seriousness and transparency” in response to the outbreak.
    • An airliner with about 210 U.S. citizens, mostly consulate personnel and their families, leaves Wuhan for the United States. Officials with the CDC recommend avoiding all travel to China and expand airport health screenings to 20 U.S. locations.
    • Scientists in Australia become the first to recreate the new coronavirus outside of China.
  • January 30: The global case total jumps to 7,818, with China accounting for 7,736. Outside of China, 82 cases have been identified in 18 different countries. The WHO reports cases in Malaysia, the Philippines, India, and Finland. Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte confirms Italy has its first two cases during a press conference.
    • The CDC confirms the first human-to-human transmission in the United States. The patient, a man in his 60s living in Illinois, is the spouse of a woman who recently visited Wuhan and was diagnosed with the disease on January 24. President Donald Trump announces the formation of a coronavirus task force to lead America’s response to the outbreak.
    • The WHO emergency committee makes a nearly unanimous decision to declare a public health emergency of international concern.

February 2020

March 2020

  • March 11: The WHO declares COVID-19 a pandemic.
  • March 12: The global case total of the COVID-19 pandemic reaches more than 128,000 people, with the death toll now at more than 4,700 people.
  • March 16: Coronavirus vaccine testing begins in the U.S. Even if the research goes well, a vaccine wouldn’t be available for widespread use for 12 to 18 months, says Dr. Anthony Fauci of the U.S. National Institutes of Health.
  • March 17: Coronavirus cases are now present in all 50 U.S. states.
  • March 26: The overall number of cases passes 550,000 worldwide, with more than 175 countries reportedly affected by the pandemic. The U.S. also now leads the world in the number of confirmed coronavirus cases.

April 2020

  • April 2: Cases worldwide top 1 million. More than 200,000 people in the U.S. have been infected.
  • April 11: Cases in the U.S. surpass 500,000.
  • April 27: Cases worldwide reach 3 million, with 185 countries now affected.

May 2020

  • May 1: India extends its nationwide lockdown for two more weeks, making life harder for the 81% of its population working at informal jobs.
  • May 9: Cases worldwide top 4 million.
  • May 11: COVID-19 cases on the African continent exceed 40,000.

July 2020

  • July 8: Cases in the U.S. surpass 3 million. Globally, the coronavirus has infected more than 11.8 million.
  • July 17: The WHO reports a record number of daily cases, 237,743.
  • July 22: Global coronavirus cases exceed 15 million. The United States remains the nation with the highest number of cases worldwide.
  • July 25: North Korea reports its first case of COVID-19. South Korea records its largest daily spike of COVID-19 cases since March. Viet Nam reports its first locally transmitted case in 100 days.
  • July 27: Phase III clinical trials for a COVID-19 vaccine, developed by Moderna, begin in the United States. A domestic cat is the first animal in the United Kingdom to test positive for the virus.
  • July 28: China reports 105 new COVID-19 cases, its highest number of new cases since April.
  • July 29: Russian officials say they’re on track to approve the first COVID-19 vaccine in mid-August.

August 2020

  • August 1: Mexico’s COVID-19 death toll becomes the third highest in the world. Mississippi records the highest COVID-19 positivity rate in the nation.
  • August 5: The global death toll climbs to 700,000.
  • August 6: Africa’s cases surpass 1 million, with South Africa accounting for more than half.
  • August 10: Moderna and U.S. federal officials reach a deal to supply the United States with 100 million doses of its experimental COVID-19 vaccine.
  • August 12: Jordan closes its border with Syria over a spike in COVID-19 cases.
  • August 13: The World Health Organization says that the COVID-19 pandemic is costing the global economy over $375 billion per month, citing International Monetary Fund research.

September 2020

  • September 29: Global deaths surpass 1 million. Deaths from coronavirus-related illnesses double in just three months, led by fatalities in the United States, Brazil, and India. The National Football League reports its first COVID-19 outbreak.
  • September 30: Major League Baseball announces it will allow a limited number of fans to attend the World Series. The WHO announces nearly $1 billion to fight COVID-19 and to make sure poor countries receive treatments and vaccines against the disease.

October 2020:

  • October 2: U.S. President Donald J. Trump and First Lady Melania Trump test positive for COVID-19. The president is flown to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for treatment.
  • October 3: The Solomon Islands reports its first COVID-19 case.
  • October 5: President Trump returns to the White House from Walter Reed hospital.
  • October 8: The White House COVID-19 outbreak reaches at least 34 people.
  • October 9: Spain declares a state of emergency in response to Madrid’s outbreak.
  • October: 12 The United Kingdom imposes new restrictions across the country, while Singapore and Indonesia agree to open their borders for travel.
  • October 25: Italy imposes its harshest restrictions since March.
  • October 28: The U.S. announces it will pay for any future COVID-19 vaccines for Americans.
  • October 29: WHO officials announce that Europe is again the epicenter of the pandemic.
  • October 30: Cases in the U.S. surpass 9 million.

November 2020

  • November 4: The United States passes 100,000 new daily COVID-19 cases for the first time.
  • November 17: New unemployment claims in the United States fall below 1 million for the first time since March.

December 2020

  • December 11: The U.S. FDA issues the first emergency use authorization for a COVID-19 vaccine to Pfizer-BioNTech.
  • December 14: The death toll in the United States surpasses 300,000. COVID-19 moves ahead of heart disease as the leading cause of death in the nation.
  • December 19: Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine is authorized for emergency use in the U.S. by the FDA.
  • December 20: Several European countries impose travel restrictions after new coronavirus variants are identified there. Other countries, such as Canada, Israel, and El Salvador, follow suit. The new variants begin to emerge in the U.S., with the first case reported in late December.
  • December 21: The Pfizer-BioNTech is approved by the European Union.

January 2021

  • January 14: A WHO team of scientists arrive in Wuhan, as China ramps up efforts to contact a resurgence of COVID-19 infections in China’s northeast.
  • January 19: The U.S. surpasses 400,000 COVID-19–related deaths.

February 2021

  • February 4: Johnson & Johnson asks the FDA to issue an emergency use authorization for its COVID-19 vaccine.
  • February 22: The United States passes 500,000 COVID-19–related deaths.
  • February 26: The United States administers 70.5 million COVID-19 vaccines.
  • February 27: The FDA approves the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

March 2021

  • March 8: Iraq extends its curfew as it faces a surge in new COVID-19 cases. Italy becomes the sixth country to surpass 100,000 COVID-19 deaths.
  • March 11: Brazil’s intensive care units surpass 90% capacity in 15 capitals as the pandemic flares up. Researchers in Brazil identity two cases of simultaneous infection with two different coronavirus variants.
  • March 17: The European Union unveils its plans for vaccine passports, while the United Kingdom considers a vaccine passport option for summer travel.

May 2021

  • May 7: India experiences a deadly second wave of COVID-19 infections. The world’s second-most populous country records 414,188 new cases in one day — a record high.
  • May 10: The FDA approves Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccination for children as young as 12.
  • May 12: The Red Cross warns that coronavirus cases are exploding across Asia with more than 5.9 million new confirmed infections in the past two weeks. India’s death toll surpasses 250,000.
  • May 12: To combat vaccine hesitation and boost state vaccination rates, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announces that the state will give away five $1 million prizes, chosen from a pool of vaccinated Ohioans. Teenagers who get vaccinated will have the chance to win full tuition, room, and board to a four-year public Ohio school.
  • May 13: The CDC announces that fully vaccinated Americans do not need to wear a mask indoors or outdoors or follow physical distancing guidelines. Guidelines will still apply for travel and public transit.
  • May 14: More than a dozen researchers publish a letter in a top scientific journal calling for further investigation into the origins of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
  • May 17: Cyclone Tauktae makes landfall on India’s western coast with wind speeds up to 100 mph. More than 150,000 people in low-lying areas are moved to shelters, and 580 COVID-19 patients are moved from dedicated centers to general hospitals. Both events create fears of increased COVID-19 outbreaks in the weeks ahead. The government also halts its vaccine drive in affected areas.

June 2021

  • June 10: Over 172 million people in the U.S. have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, according to the CDC. More than 873 million people worldwide have received at least one dose, according to the WHO.
  • June 19: Brazil reports more than 500,000 deaths from COVID-19, the second-highest confirmed death toll in the world.
  • June 25: Israel reinstates mask-wearing requirements indoors and requires travelers to quarantine upon arrival.
  • June 29: Weekly cases of COVID-19 in children in the U.S. drops to the lowest since May 2020.

July 2021

  • July 15: COVID-19-related deaths rise sharply in Africa, where countries face shortages in oxygen and intensive care beds, according to the WHO. The number of deaths rose more than 40% in the week, reaching 6,273 —nearly 1,900 more than the week before.
  • July 17: The first case of COVID-19 is detected in Tokyo’s Olympic village.
  • July 25: California, New York City, and the Department of Veterans Affairs mandate all government workers to receive the COVID-19 vaccine or undergo weekly testing.
  • July 29: President Biden calls on school districts to host pop-up clinics in order to vaccinate more children 12 and older against COVID-19 as worries intensify that the upcoming school year will be interrupted by the delta variant. The CDC describes the delta variant as being as transmissible as chickenpox.
  • July 30: Top Canadian health official says rising cases suggest the start of a fourth wave of infections driven by the delta variant. “Delta is a formidable foe,” says Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam.



Heather Klinger, Kristy J. O’Hara-Glaspie, and Sevil Omer of World Vision’s U.S. staff contributed to this article.

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From the Field

Racing against the spread of hunger in East Africa

Learn more about Afghanistan, where conflict, drought, displacement, and COVID-19 have created extreme conditions for children and families.
From the Field

Afghanistan crisis: Facts, FAQs, and how to help