California and the Coronavirus: A Timeline

The first reported California death was a month ago. It seems more like an eon has passed.

How does coronavirus hit a state? First slowly, and then very fast.

California was one of the first places in the U.S. to be hit with the coronavirus, and also one of the earliest to take action. Here’s a timeline, with some national events for comparison:


Jan. 25.  First California coronavirus case reported.


Feb. 10.  President Trump: “Looks like by April, you know, in theory, when it gets a little warmer, it miraculously goes away.”

Feb. 25.  San Francisco declares coronavirus emergency.

Feb. 28.  First confirmed case of community spreading in California.


March 4.  First coronavirus death in California. Gov. Newsom declares a state of emergency.

March 10.  Trump: “We’re prepared, and we’re doing a great job with it. And it will go away. Just stay calm. It will go away.”

March 9.  UC Berkeley ends in-person classes. Trump tweets: “The Fake News Media and their partner, the Democrat Party, is doing everything within its semi-considerable power … to inflame the CoronaVirus situation.”

March 14.  Trump declares national emergency and tweets “SOCIAL DISTANCING!” At that point, there are 2770 confirmed coronavirus cases and 57 deaths in the U.S.

March 16. The six Bay Area counties issue “shelter in place” orders.

March 20. Governor Newsom issues statewide “shelter in place” order.  The action comes one hour after L.A. issues  its own order.

March 24. Trump: “I’d love to have the country opened up and just raring to go by Easter.”

March 29.  California death toll reaches one hundred.  Trump: U.S. will be doing well if it can hold U.S. deaths to 100,000.

March 31. Bay Area counties tighten restrictions, closing parks; shutdown extended to  5/3.


April 3.    12, 831 confirmed California coronavirus cases to date, 285 total deaths. U.S. reports 278,000 cases, over 7000 total deaths. Trumps says remaining states without social distancing are “not in jeopardy,” leaving restrictions up to them.

April 14 .   23,371 confirmed California cases, with 731 deaths.  Nationally, 587,815 confirmed cases,  23,654 deaths. As of April 6, seven states still did not have stay-at-home orders.

April 15.  One model predicts that California cases will peak on this date, while other models predict a peak sometime in May with a gradual reduction thereafter.


There are a couple of obvious takeaways.  First, California announced social-distancing measures more quickly and with a much more consistent message than the federal government.  Second, “slowly, then suddenly” is really true.  Almost nothing visible happened in January and February. Then in March, events came rushing.

We’ll find out later this month how well California’s public health response has worked. Some models project that new cases here may be peaking, others are less optimistic. I’ll issue updates of this timeline as we see how things progress.



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Reader Comments

4 Replies to “California and the Coronavirus: A Timeline”

  1. When are Berkeley academics going to unite to inform, educate and motivate We The People to fight for survival of the human race against coronavirus, global warming, Washington Presidential/Congressional/SCOTUS overthrow of our American Democracy by reactionary conservatives, etc. and other social, political and economic disasters we are experiencing on a daily basis?

    Why don’t you unite per Berkeley Blog: “Climate crisis needs Berkeley’s leadership in social and environmental justice” by
    Daniel Kammen, Class of 1935 Distinguished Professor of Energy | September 20, 2019

    “Berkeley has, in the past, taken on such social transformations, and the world urgently needs us to take an expanded role yet again.

    We need the Berkeley community to step up again and further educate itself and to partner locally and globally on a diverse range of climate-smart actions.”

  2. P.S. Prof. Farber, I recommend uniting academics to save the human race knowing full well that you are a paramount example of what Richard Hofstadter documented in his 1963 book, as referred to by former Chancellor Nicholas Dirks in a 2013 CALIFORNIA Magazine cover story: “he talked about how academics characterized themselves as pure. And he noted that one of the reasons, perhaps, why there were so few public intellectuals of note in America is not just because America is anti-intellectual—which of course it is—but also because so many intellectuals don’t want to take on the sort of complications and impurities that come with being public.”

    Preeminent historians like the Durants also concluded “When a civilization declines, it is through no mystic limitation of a corporate life, but through the failure of its political or intellectual leaders to meet the challenges of change.”

    So this lesson of history means our civilization is also doomed because of the failures by both political and intellectual leaders to meet the challenges of change today.

    So much for the lessons of history that academics fail to heed and act upon just like Trump does.

  3. I guess I’m a little puzzled about your expectations. Legal Planet has had two million views. Members of the Legal Planet team publish white papers, write op. eds., talk to the press, work with state government and sometimes testify in the legislature. That’s not “academic purity”, it’s being engaged.

  4. Thanks for your feedback at last.

    Interesting point on number of views, but academics really don’t inform, educate and motivate the public very well when Trump has a 45% Job Approval rating today (per Real Clear Politics Polling Data) in spite of the fact that he is overthrowing American Democracy, along with enabling a pandemic holocaust

    You really don’t communicate effectively at all as long as we continue to experience out of control global warming disasters around the world.

    Again, your academic purity is preventing you from educating the public because there “are few public intellectuals of note” and “so many intellectuals don’t want to take on the sort of complications and impurities that come with being public.”

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About Dan

Dan Farber has written and taught on environmental and constitutional law as well as about contracts, jurisprudence and legislation. Currently at Berkeley Law, he has al…

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About Dan

Dan Farber has written and taught on environmental and constitutional law as well as about contracts, jurisprudence and legislation. Currently at Berkeley Law, he has al…

READ more