Pandemic Timeline: COVID-19 in Mississippi

By Nick Judin and Ashton Pittman
The COVID-19 pandemic upended our lives and presented new challenges to leaders around the world in 2020. Using this timeline tool, you can explore how the worst public-health crisis in a century unfolded in Mississippi, examine how state, local and public-health leaders responded, and retrace the spread of the novel coronavirus alongside the various policies they enacted.
Note: The “Deaths” figure listed in the circular points starting on March 11, 2020, refers to the total number of publicly reported deaths in Mississippi at that time. Some COVID-19 deaths were reported or confirmed days, weeks or even months after they occurred.
Dec. 31, 2019
Pneumonia Cluster in China
The Chinese government confirms that it has treated a cluster of pneumonia cases with an unknown cause. Within days, researchers will confirm that a newly identified novel coronavirus is the cause.
Jan. 21, 2020
U.S. Confirms First COVID-19 Case
The United States confirms the first travel-related case of COVID-19.
Jan. 31, 2020
U.S. Public-Health Emergency
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar declares a public-health emergency for COVID-19 that he says began on Jan. 27, 2020.
Feb. 29, 2020
First Reported U.S. Death
One day after President Trump claimed that "there have been no deaths in the United States at all" from COVID-19 and that case numbers were dropping, the U.S. confirms that an American patient near Seattle, Wash., has died. Authorities will later confirm two earlier deaths.
March 2, 2020
Gov. Reeves Talks Virus With Pence, Azar
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves joins other governors participating in a virtual call with Vice President Mike Pence, U.S. Health Secretary Alex Azar and other health officials to discuss the COVID-19 crisis.
March 2, 2020
Surgeon General: 'STOP BUYING MASKS!'

U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams urges Americans to "STOP BUYING MASKS!" in a tweet, echoing other public-health officials who say masks and other forms of PPE needed in health-care settings should be preserved for health workers.

"They are NOT effective in preventing general public from catching #Coronavirus, but if healthcare providers can't get them to care for sick patients, it puts them and our communities at risk," Adams writes in a tweet. Studies will later disprove part of this claim by demonstrating that face masks are effective at preventing public transmission.

March 4, 2020
Reeves Creates Coronavirus Committee
Gov. Tate Reeves signs Executive Order No. 1457, creating the Mississippi Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Planning Steering Committee with Dr. Thomas Dobbs as chair. Read EO No. 1457
March 10, 2020
Gov. Reeves on Vacation in Spain
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves is vacationing with his family in Spain—a country that has already confirmed hundreds of COVID-19 cases. He is there for a series of soccer tournaments that his daughter is participating in.
March 11, 2020
Deaths 0
Mississippi Confirms First Case

The Mississippi State Department of Health confirms the “first presumptive novel coronavirus case” in Forrest County. Gov. Reeves is still in Spain.

Note: "Deaths" listed in the timeline points refer to the confirmed death toll in Mississippi as of the date to which each point corresponds.

March 11, 2020
WHO Declares Global Pandemic
The World Health Organization declares COVID-19 is a worldwide pandemic.
March 13, 2020
Deaths 0
Trump Declares Emergency
President Trump declares a nationwide state of emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
March 14, 2020
Deaths 0
Reeves Returns, Declares Emergency

Gov. Tate Reeves returns from Spain and issues a State of Emergency proclamation that says "the risk of spread of COVID-19 within Mississippi constitutes a public emergency that may result in substantial injury or harm to life, health, and property within Mississippi."

The order directs Mississippi agencies "to identify and provide appropriate personnel for conduct necessary and ongoing incident related assessments” and gives health-care facilities that have invoked emergency operation plans the power to implement "alternative standards of care" as needed. It also orders the state health officer to "inform members of the public on how to protect themselves and actions being taken in response to this outbreak."