On Wednesday, January 20, it will be one year since the first person in the United States to be confirmed to have COVID-19 was hospitalized and tested.
The unidentified 35-year-old man had spent three months visiting family in Wuhan, China and returned to the U.S. on January 15. He traveled alone and lived alone. After becoming sick a few days later, he saw his doctor and was admitted to Providence Regional Medical Center in the town of Everett, in Snohomish County, Washington, north of Seattle.
"There had to be the first case somewhere," Washington epidemiologist Dr. Scott Lindquist told reporters at the time. "It was in Snohomish."
The hospital, serendipitously, had rehearsed for a possible pathogen attack weeks earlier as part of a practice drill for a potential Ebola patient. They were ready with enclosed gurneys, PPE, and isolation techniques.
The doctor in charge of the unidentified man’s care asked the FDA for approval to treat him with remdesivir, an antiviral drug developed to treat Ebola. He was the first in the nation to receive the treatment.
The man’s coronavirus diagnosis was confirmed by the CDC the next day, on January 21, 2020, and he became the country’s first positively identified case of COVID-19 imported from China, according to the agency. They sent a team to Washington state to help with the investigation and possible contact tracing.
Also on January 20, 2020, the CDC announced three U.S. airports would begin screening for the coronavirus because of flights between them and Wuhan, China: JFK international, San Francisco International and Los Angeles International. The move came after a handful of cases of coronavirus were reported in Thailand and Japan.
The initial patient in Washington state recovered, and on February 3, 2020, he was released from the hospital. Meanwhile, hospitals nearby were beginning to get their first coronavirus patients, and long-term care facilities were starting to see cases.
From that first hospitalized case, to a year later, more than 400,000 Americans have died from the coronavirus and more than 24 million have contracted the disease. There are two vaccines with FDA emergency authorization approval and every state is working to vaccinate as many people as quickly as possible.