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Eight Months Ago: ARLnow’s First Reference to Coronavirus

Eight months ago — on Jan. 29, 2020 — the employees of ARLnow and our sister sites all gathered to celebrate ARLnow’s 10th anniversary.

Together with friends, family and readers, we all packed into Bronson Bierhall in Ballston to drink, eat and chat. There were no masks to be seen. Social distancing was not yet a thing that was being practiced.

It would prove to be one of the last times those in attendance were able to enjoy such an evening.

Two days before the event, ARLnow published its first reference to the novel coronavirus. Just six days before that, the first coronavirus case in the U.S. was announced.

The following is a timeline of those fateful few weeks between our first mention of the virus and the first confirmed case in Arlington.

  • Jan. 27 — Health officials were investigating a possible coronavirus case in Northern Virginia.
  • Jan. 29 — Local pharmacies, including Preston’s on Lee Highway, report selling out of surgical masks.
  • Jan. 31 — “With the Virginia Health Department investigating a second possible case of coronavirus in Northern Virginia, Arlington County is preparing for the worst-case scenario: a local outbreak.”
  • Feb. 4 — Tests on both possible coronavirus cases in Northern Virginia came back negative. There are still no local cases.
  • Feb. 13 — “Arlington Public Schools is barring recent visitors to China from schools.”
  • Feb. 27 — Another Northern Virginia resident was being tested after contracting coronavirus-like symptoms.
  • Feb. 28 — “As the global coronavirus outbreak spreads and the stock market sinks, both Arlington County and Arlington Public Schools are ramping up their public outreach on the disease.”
  • March 5 — During an online Q&A, Arlington’s health director urges residents to wash their hands frequently and thoroughly.
  • March 5 — Most local stores have been picked clean of face masks, hand sanitizer and rubbing alcohol.
  • March 6 — Arlington Public Schools says it is “preparing for the possibility of school closures in the future, if necessary.”
  • March 9 — “Arlington County and the Virginia Department of Health have announced the county’s first ‘presumptive’ case of coronavirus.”

That first local case was followed two days later by the suspension of the NBA season, widely seen as a turning point in the country’s response to the pandemic, and four days later by the announced closure of Arlington Public Schools.

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