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2020 News of the Year: Pandemic

2020 News of the Year: Pandemic

An Ethiopian Public Health Institute worker checks temperatures at the Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. (Eduardo Soteras/AFP via Getty Images)

Who could have predicted on Jan. 1, 2020, that a coronavirus invisible to the human eye would change life for nearly every person on the planet and kill more than a million people? Viruses do not catch God by surprise, but SARS-CoV-2 surprised the world, spreading quietly and rapidly. Its incubation period (up to 14 days) and tendency to infect some people asymptomatically while causing severe COVID-19 or death in others made the virus especially difficult to contain. Also hard to contain: the political and economic debates over virus-fighting measures, including state-mandated lockdowns and mask-wearing. The following images illustrate the tensions the pandemic brought to our lives this year. On Jan. 1, 2021, we’ll ask: How long until the outbreak ends? And hopefully, we’ll pray for mercy.

Hector Retamal/AFP via Getty Images

(Hector Retamal/AFP via Getty Images)

Wuhan outbreak

The body of an elderly man who collapsed and died lies on the pavement on Jan. 30 in Wuhan, China, the city identified as ground zero of the coronavirus outbreak. By the end of the month, the World Health Organization had declared a global health emergency, and China had reported 213 deaths from the novel coronavirus and nearly 10,000 confirmed infections.

Stringer/AFP via Getty Images

(Stringer/AFP via Getty Images)

First cases

A doctor examines an image while checking a patient infected by COVID-19, the name given to the illness caused by the new corona­virus, at Wuhan Red Cross Hospital in Wuhan on Feb. 16. Doctors worked to understand the disease and prevent spread of the airborne virus as case numbers quickly multiplied: China reported 1,770 total dead by Feb. 17.

David Ryder/Getty Images

(David Ryder/Getty Images)

Nursing homes hit

Health workers move a COVID-19 patient to an ambulance outside a Life Care Center in Kirkland, Wash., on Feb. 29. After jumping to the United States in January, the virus hit the elderly especially hard. More than one-third of U.S. deaths have been linked to nursing homes.

Ted S. Warren/AP

(Ted S. Warren/AP)

Under quarantine

Judie Shape, a resident of the Life Care Center in Kirkland, Wash., who tested positive for the coronavirus, presses her hand against a window while talking with her daughter Lori Spencer (left). Spencer and her husband, Michael (right), were not allowed to visit Shape in person as the Life Care Center and other assisted living facilities barred outside visitors.

Charly Triballeau/AFP via Getty Images

(Charly Triballeau/AFP via Getty Images)

A cruise and the coronavirus

A bus departs near the cruise ship Diamond Princess, docked under quarantine in Yokohama, Japan, on Feb. 14. More than 3,700 passengers and crew had to be quarantined aboard the ship for two weeks as hundreds of passengers tested positive for the coronavirus. 

Josh Edelson/AFP via Getty Images

(Josh Edelson/AFP via Getty Images)

Toilet paper panic

Panic shopping ensued—including at a Costco store in Novato, Calif.—in March as states began limiting travel in an emergency effort to contain the virus’s spread. One odd result: Aisles at many supermarkets became bare of toilet paper and cleaning products as manufacturers struggled to keep up with demand.

Michael Bryant/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP

(Michael Bryant/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP)

Do-it-yourself protection

An employee sanitizes cart handles and eyes a shopper wearing a mask and snorkel at a Costco in King of Prussia, Pa., on March 25.

Jean-Francois Badias/AP

(Jean-Francois Badias/AP)

Europe’s crisis

Health workers evacuate a COVID-19 patient from the Mulhouse civil hospital in Eastern France on March 23. France, Italy, Spain, and the U.K. suffered the highest death tolls in Europe since the early days of the outbreak.

Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images

(Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images)

Drive-thru testing

A medical worker swabs a woman undergoing a coronavirus test in her vehicle in West Palm Beach, Fla., on March 16. The drive-thru ­testing strategy enabled widespread testing while keeping visitors outside of hospital facilities.

John Minchillo/AP

(John Minchillo/AP)

New York hot zone

A patient arrives in an ambulance at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York on April 13. The city of New York became a major breakout site for the coronavirus early in the pandemic, logging 700-800 virus-linked deaths per day during a mid-April peak.

Stanton Sharpe/Sopa Images/Sipa via AP

(Stanton Sharpe/Sopa Images/Sipa via AP)


Demonstrators protest lockdowns and other government efforts to fight the pandemic outside the California State Capitol in Sacramento. Opponents of lockdowns and mask mandates argued such measures were eroding American civil liberties.

Emilio Morenatti/AP

(Emilio Morenatti/AP)

Love in quarantine

Husband and wife Pascual Pérez, 84, and Agustina Cañamero, 81, kiss through masks and plastic sheeting at a nursing home in Barcelona, Spain, on June 22.

Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP via Getty Images

(Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP via Getty Images)

A shocking toll

Funeral home employees use disinfectant in a morgue in Brussels while tending to the body of a person who died of COVID-19. In early December, the known global death toll from the virus surpassed 1.5 million. 

Go Nakamura/Getty Images

(Go Nakamura/Getty Images)

Holiday despair 

Dr. Joseph Varon comforts a patient in the COVID-19 intensive care unit of the United Memorial Medical Center in Houston on Thanksgiving Day.

Tony Gutierrez/AP

(Tony Gutierrez/AP)

Socially distanced honors

High-school graduate Thomas Hardin rings a cowbell during a parent-organized vehicle procession celebrating the 2020 graduates of J.J. Pearce and Richardson high schools in Richardson, Texas, on May 9.

Ashley Landis/AP

(Ashley Landis/AP)

Stands without fans

Kyle Tucker, a left fielder for the Houston Astros, catches a fly ball while playing against the Oakland Athletics during Game 4 of the American League Division Series in Los Angeles on Oct. 8. With spectators typically banned or limited in sports stadiums during the outbreak, some teams filled the seats with cutouts.

Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

(Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images)

Age of Zoom

A lower-school substitute teacher works from her home in Arlington, Va., on April 1. With the shutdown of businesses and schools, meetings and education moved largely online with the help of teleconferencing software such as Zoom, whose market value ballooned from $19 billion to $139 billion, surpassing the worth of ExxonMobil.

Philippe Lopez/AFP via Getty Images

(Philippe Lopez/AFP via Getty Images)

Songs in lockdown

Stephane Senechal, a French opera tenor, sings “’O Sole Mio” to his neighbors from his window in Paris on the evening of March 26, the 10th day of a nationwide lockdown.

Sebastian Enriquez/AFP via Getty Images

(Sebastian Enriquez/AFP via Getty Images)

Burying the dead

Workers in Piura, Peru, disinfect a coffin containing the body of a COVID-19 ­victim on April 15. Restrictions meant to reduce the spread of the virus ­limited traditional burial rites in many places, with funerals often canceled or limited to 10 people. Peru suffered one of the world’s highest per capita death rates from the virus.

Chris McGrath/Getty Images

(Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

Cruiser graveyard

Luxury cruise ships are dismantled and cut up for scrap metal at the Aliaga ship recycling port in Izmir, Turkey, on Oct. 2. The pandemic pushed the cruise industry to a financial brink, forcing cruise lines to move some ships into early retirement. Airlines also lost billions of dollars and parked thousands of airplanes in the spring as passenger traffic plummeted.

Erin Schaff/The New York Times/Redux

(Erin Schaff/The New York Times/Redux)

Task force briefings 

Dr. Anthony Fauci, who heads the Naitonal Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks at a March 20 press briefing with Vice President Mike Pence standing nearby. Fauci became one of the most well-known health officials early in the pandemic. He was a member of the White Coronavirus Task Force, participated in daily press briefings, and had other media appearances.

Adam Bettcher/Getty Images

(Adam Bettcher/Getty Images)

Online church

Pastor Jim Erickson preaches in an empty auditorium at Grace Church Eden Prairie in March. The Eden Prairie, Minn., church was one of many that streamed services online or met outdoors during the pandemic.

Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP via Getty Images

(Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP via Getty Images)

Celebrating the survivors

At Bois de l’Abbaye hospital (CHBA) in Seraing, Belgium, workers take a moment to applaud as 100-year-old patient Julia Dewilde leaves the hospital on April 29 following successful treatment of COVID-19. Every victory over the virus was cause for joy. 

The Editors

The Editors