March 11, 2020: Recapping the day coronavirus changed everything

Lori Spencer visits her mom Judie Shape, 81, who Spencer says has tested positive for coronavirus, at Life Care Center of Kirkland, the Seattle-area nursing home at the epicenter of one of the biggest coronavirus outbreaks in the United States, in Kirkland, Washington, U.S. March 11, 2020. Photo by REUTERS/Jason Redmond TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

On this day last year, the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a pandemic. Governor Gavin Newsom warned that gatherings of more than 250 people should be canceled and social distancing should be maintained at smaller gatherings. 

The head of LA County’s Department of Public Health, Barbara Ferrer, also announced the county’s first death from COVID-19: “We are reporting our first death here in LA County. This was a woman who was over 60. She had extensive travel over the past month, including a long layover in South Korea.”

That night, former President Donald Trump announced plans to suspend all travel from Europe for 30 days: “To keep new cases from entering our shores, we will be suspending all travel from Europe to the United States for the next 30 days. The new rules will go into effect Friday at midnight.”

That decision set off panic at the airports as travelers abroad rushed home. 

Around the same time as Trump’s address, the NBA abruptly canceled a game between Utah and Oklahoma City. Fans were sent home without an explanation. They later found out that basketball player Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz reportedly tested positive for coronavirus. 

Not long after, Hollywood icon Tom Hanks and his wife Rita tested positive in Australia. 

That day, Press Play talked to Dr. Samuel Fink, an internal medicine doctor in Tarzana. He was treating four COVID-19 patients who just returned from a ski trip in Northern Italy. 

Fink shared some advice: “The main thing is, and we have to emphasize despite what everyone is doing, is not to panic, not to buy up supplies. We can't go crazy over all of this. We have to take some common sense precautions. I've noticed that as soon as a school has a case that the school seems to close. So the suggestion I made is that if we're going to do that anyway, let's close the schools before there's a case. And I think it's a very good idea to avoid large public gatherings. I had tickets to the theater last weekend and didn't go.”

Los Angeles universities were scrambling to move classes online. Press Play talked to Pedro Noguera, dean of the USC Rossier School of Education, about a move to remote learning until mid-April. 

“Many of us are accustomed to using a medium like Zoom for meetings. And then we have other resources, online resources for communicating with students. So hopefully it won't be too hard to make it possible to get all of our classes up online,” Noguera said. 

And UCLA third-year neuroscience student Jessica Diaz was glad the university was doing something, but she was nervous about her finals: “I’m really glad they decided to do something, but also … being week 10, it’s hard to have online classes and finals. Especially for the science classes, it’s harder to have an online thing, and it’s less convenient because now I have to spend time learning how to use the software because I’ve never taken an online final before. … So that's really annoying.”

Almost no one could have predicted the year the U.S. would have. Nearly 30 million Americans were infected, and more than a half a million died. The economy was rocked by mass layoffs as restaurants, hotels, movie theaters, and schools shut down. 

But it wasn’t all bad. We made some stunning achievements in the last year, namely producing multiple highly effective vaccines in record time, giving everyone hope that the next year will look very different than the last.