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2 years of COVID-19: Everything changed on March 11, 2020. Here's what happened that day.

March 11, 2020
Posted at 6:59 AM, Mar 11, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-11 10:13:44-05

While COVID-19 had been in the news for several weeks — and had likely been spreading silently in communities for most of that time — March 11, 2020, was the day that the realities of the virus sank in for many Americans.

On the morning of March 11, COVID-19 was still a world away — an issue limited to Asia, Europe and cruise ships. By that evening, it was clear the U.S. was in for a rough few weeks.

Most — Dr. Anthony Fauci included — could not imagine that those few weeks would develop into more than a year of pain, with nearly a million Americans dead.

Here's a recap of everything that happened on March 11, 2020.

Stock Market plunges upon opening, closes with worst loss in 30 years

The stock market had been faltering for several weeks, spooked by the impact the virus was having on economies in Asia and Europe. But with evidence that the virus was set to arrive in the U.S., the stock market triggered "circuit-breaker" stoppages just moments after opening due to massive losses. The Dow finished the day with a 10% loss — the largest single-day loss since "Black Monday" in 1987.

Fauci tells Congress that "it's going to get worse"

At that point a mostly-anonymous public health expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci appeared on Capitol Hill on March 11 to testify before the House Oversight and Reform Committee about the dangers posed by COVID-19. Fauci's comments startled the committee and the nation.

"I can say we will see more cases and things will get worse than they are right now," Fauci said. "How much worse we'll 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."

The comments were a grim prediction of what was to come and helped propel Fauci into the public consciousness as one of the most trusted voices in the U.S.'s response to the virus.

World Health Organization declares a global pandemic

For the first time since the discovery of the novel coronavirus, the WHO used the term "global pandemic." The term implied that all countries around the world would face public health challenges with COVID-19.

The organization urged all countries to prepare to "detect, test, treat, isolate, trace and mobilize their people in the response" and adopt public health policies to stop the spread.

NCAA closes basketball tournament to fans, putting March Madness in doubt

With college basketball in the midst of its postseason, the NCAA announced that no fans would be in attendance during the men's and women's basketball tournaments. The tournaments are typically a financial boom for the organization, bringing hundreds of thousands of fans annually in games across the country.

Several conferences also announced their postseason tournaments would also take place without fans. The Ivy League canceled its tournament altogether and announced Yale, the regular-season conference winner, would go to the NCAA tournament.

The next day, the NCAA would cancel its postseason tournament for the first time since its inception in 1939.

Tom Hanks, Rita Wilson announce they have COVID-19

In an Instagram post, Tom Hanks announced he and his wife Rita Wilson contracted COVID-19 — perhaps the highest-profile celebrity to contract the virus to that point.

"To play things right, as is needed in the world right now, we were tested for the Coronavirus, and were found to be positive," Hanks wrote.

Hanks and Wilson, who were in Australia working on a movie, said they would begin isolation. They later recovered from the virus.

President Donald Trump shuts down travel to Europe

In a hastily announced primetime address, President Donald Trump announced he is shutting down travel to Europe, where COVID-19 was quickly spreading. The restriction went into effect two days later, on March 13.

During his address, Trump also mistakenly said cargo shipping to Europe would also be closed, causing a temporary panic. The White House quickly clarified in a statement that commercial shipping would continue.

"After consulting with our top government health professionals, I have decided to take several strong but necessary actions to protect the health and wellbeing of all Americans," Trump said.

For the next few days, American travelers abroad in Europe packed airports in the hopes of getting home before the deadline, even though American citizens, their family members and green card holders were not covered under the restrictions.

NBA suspends its season

With fans already in the arena to watch an upcoming game between the Utah Jazz and Oklahoma City Thunder, both teams failed to take the floor.

Minutes later, the league announced a Jazz player had tested positive for COVID-19, and the game had been canceled.

The announcement sends shockwaves through the league. Reports later indicate the player who tested positive is Rudy Gobert — a player who just days before his positive test had mocked the virus by touching every reporter's microphone during an interview.

Hours later, the NBA announced it is halting its season "until further notice." They're the first North American sports league to announce season suspension. Other leagues would soon follow suit.

Impact

Over the next few days, states began to announce restrictions on public gatherings and businesses. Bars and restaurants were shuttered. Other entertainment venues were closed. Offices told workers to begin working from home.

Even two years later, with vaccines widely available, some restrictions remain in place.

The good news? In recent weeks, case rates and hospitalizations have plummeted after spiking to record levels due to the omicron variant. Many states are rolling back mask mandates and introducing new policies to help Americans prepare to live with COVID-19.

It may have taken longer than anyone expected, but there is hope for normalcy in the near future.