Museum of America in the Pandemic Year, 2020

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Saturday, February 22

Feb 19: Trump assures the public against worrying about the coronavirus. Trump states, “I think it’s going to work out fine. I think when we get into April, in the warmer weather, that has a very negative effect on that and that type of a virus.” WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s lawyers told a London court on Wednesday that President Trump offered to pardon Assange if he said Russia had nothing to do with hacking Democrats’ emails during the 2016 presidential campaign. Iran reports two coronavirus cases. Hours later, officials confirmed that both patients died.

Feb 20: South Korea reports its first coronavirus death. This is the ninth confirmed death from the virus outside mainland China. A federal judge sentences President Trump’s longtime adviser Roger Stone to 40 months in prison for lying to Congress and witness tampering in an effort to help Trump by obstructing an investigation into Russian election meddling. Fourteen Americans who contracted coronavirus on a cruise ship in Japan were transported back to the U.S. against the wishes of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, The Washington Post reports.

Feb 21: Dr. Kadlec (HHS) reportedly convenes an urgent meeting of the White House coronavirus task force in an effort to determine not if but when the country would need to be in lock down to prevent the spread of the virus. Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, tells reporters that U.S. health officials are preparing for the coronavirus to become a pandemic. “We’re not seeing community spread here in the United States, yet, but it’s very possible, even likely, that it may eventually happen,” she says. First COVID-19 death in Italy is reported.

Feb 22: Bernie Sanders cruises to victory in the Nevada caucus. South Korea goes into highest alert after infections grow to 602 and a fifth person dies.*

From the Cutting Room Floor...

A beautiful weekend at Mardi Gras in New Orleans: Rebirth Brass Band at Tipitina’s, the parades–a microcosm of American political angst and satire, chocolate croissants at La Boulangerie, and muscles swimming in butter at Crepe Nanou. There is nothing in the world like it.

No one is talking about the virus. It hasn’t come up once.

Italy is clearly struggling, but it does seem like we may have dodged a bullet in the United States. All the people that were quarantining at military camps around the country have been told they can leave. The economy seems solid, even if it did take a strange dive for a bit today. Good organizations like the CDC reassure us that the best people are on it. At the same time, I know that there is danger in exceptionalist belief… in maintaining that we Americans are going to be okay while everyone else falls apart. We like to think that we have the best medicine, the most efficient and robust infrastructure. I am reassured by this belief. At the same time, I know that there are parts of America that have lower life expectancies than some of the world’s poorest nations.  

I hear the punching beat of the St. Aug High School band lined up down Tchoupitoulas Street, waiting for a parade to start. Their instruments flash in the waning pink light of the day.

This video is making the rounds on social media. Skip Tanner, “Corona Virus: There’s Nothing to Worry About,” 2020.


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Shimbun, Asahi. “Cruise Ship with 3,711 on Board Put in Quarantine at Yokohama,” February 4, 2020.
Lu, Roujian, Xiang Zhao, Juan Li, Peihua Niu, Bo Yang, Honglong Wu, Wenling Wang, et al. “Genomic Characterisation and Epidemiology of 2019 Novel Coronavirus: Implications for Virus Origins and Receptor Binding.” The Lancet 395, no. 10224 (February 22, 2020): 565–74.
Diamond, Dan. “White House to Ask Congress for Emergency Coronavirus Funding.” POLITICO, February 22, 2020.
Munster, Vincent J., Marion Koopmans, Neeltje van Doremalen, Debby van Riel, and Emmie de Wit. “A Novel Coronavirus Emerging in China — Key Questions for Impact Assessment.” New England Journal of Medicine 382, no. 8 (February 20, 2020): 692–94.
Honey, Michael K. “What Happened to Martin Luther King Jr.’s Dream of Economic Justice?” Time, February 20, 2020.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Coronavirus Disease 2019,” February 22, 2020.

WHO Situation Report, Feb 22, 2020,

Zhu, Na, Dingyu Zhang, Wenling Wang, Xingwang Li, Bo Yang, Jingdong Song, Xiang Zhao, et al. “A Novel Coronavirus from Patients with Pneumonia in China, 2019.” New England Journal of Medicine 382, no. 8 (February 20, 2020): 727–33.
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* Timeline summaries at the top of the page come from a variety of sources:, including The American Journal of Managed Care COVID-19 Timeline (, the Just Security Group at the NYU School of Law (, the “10 Things,” daily entries from The Week (, as well as a variety of newspapers and television programs.