WASHINGTON - This week marks two years since COVID-19 changed lives in Washington state, across the country and around the world.
On January 19, 2020, a man in Snohomish County in his 30s went to an emergency clinic with symptoms of pneumonia and was taken to Everett's Providence Regional Medical Center for treatment.
Two days later, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed that it was the first case of coronavirus in the United States after deploying a team to the state to help with contact tracing efforts.
The origin of COVID-19 "new coronavirus"
According to the CDC, the man had returned from a trip to Wuhan in China after visiting family and arrived asymptomatically at Sea-Tac International Airport. In mid-December 2019, the CDC reported that a cluster of patients in Wuhan experienced shortness of breath and fever.
After confirming that the virus could spread human-to-human, the World Health Organization announced the official name of the disease that caused the coronavirus outbreak: COVID-19. It was an abbreviation of coronavirus disease 2019.
On February 29, 2020, King County officials announced the first death in the United States as a result of COVID-19. The person who died was a man in his 50s who had underlying health conditions but who had no travel history or contact with a known case of COVID-19.
After the first reported death, health officials in King County reported a COVID-19 outbreak at a Life Care Center facility in Kirkland, it became the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the country.
RELATED: COVID-19 cases continue to rise at Kirkland Care Center
On 11 March 2020, the WHO declared COVID-19 a pandemic. Shortly afterwards, former President Donald J. Trump declared a nationwide emergency, and U.S. states began shutting down to prevent the spread of the virus.
President Donald Trump Speaks at a COVID-19 Briefing at the James S. Brady Briefing Room in the White House on July 21, 2020 in Washington, DC (Photo by Jabin Botsford / The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Inslee issues "stay-at-home" orders in Washington state
Governor Jay Inslee issued an order to stay home to the state's 7 million residents to help slow the spread of COVID-19. The order closed non-essential businesses for at least two weeks, banning large gatherings, closing bars and eateries.
RELATED: Washington State stay-at-home order in an instant
At that time, more than 2,000 cases were confirmed in the state of Washington, and at least 110 people died.
Some states began to partially reopen despite concerns from health officials. Inslee extended the order and unveiled a 4-phase plan to reopen the state, but the school would remain physically closed for the rest of the school year.
Inslee halted the gradual reopening plan indefinitely during the summer of 2020 and eased COVID-19 restrictions for some state-owned companies.
Western Washington went into a slump after the state reported a rapid rise in COVID-19 cases. In response, Inslee issued and extended COVID-19 restrictions.
COVID-19 vaccines receive "emergency use authorization" from the FDA
In late 2020, the Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency use permit for the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines. The first COVID-19 vaccines were administered in December, which would be the first steps to return to normal during the pandemic. By the end of the year, more than 1 million people in the United States had been vaccinated, according to the CDC.
In early 2021, Inslee announced a new reopening plan based on counties and not regions, but indoor dining was still banned. He also urged schools to open up more personal learning.
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The COVID-19 vaccine was widely distributed and mass vaccination sites began to open. At the time, Inslee announced that all Washington counties could move to Phase Three of the reopening plan by the end of June if 70% of residents had at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Also during the spring, the CDC announced that fully vaccinated people could travel safely domestically in the United States without a COVID test first. The agency also said fully vaccinated people could gather indoors without masks.
The Delta variant arrives in the United States
During the summer of 2021, the delta variant became the dominant variant in the United States and started a third wave of infections. A CDC study found that among people previously infected with COVID-19, re-infection was less than half as likely among those vaccinated after their first infection.
In June 2021, Inslee announced a "Shot of a Lifetime" program, a $ 2 million vaccine lottery in cash prizes, travel, scholarships and more to people vaccinated.
RELATED: Omicron vs. delta: Study examines the difference between two symptoms of coronavirus variant
The city of Seattle and King County announced an indoor vaccine requirement for restaurants, bars, gyms, movie theaters and other entertainment venues in September. The mandate also applies to outdoor events with more than 500 participants.
In the fall of 2021, the CDC approved the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practice's recommendation for COVID-19 booster shots. In November, the agency recommended that anyone over the age of 18 who received a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine should receive a COVID-19 booster injection 6 months after being fully vaccinated.
The rise of the omicron variant
When people were advised to get booster shots, the WHO declared a new variant, omicron. According to the CDC, the variant has several mutations in the tip protein that worried scientists globally.
Washington state hospital executives said omicron became the dominant COVID-19 strain in King County and western Washington.
RELATED: Omicron is now the dominant virus strain in King County, western Washington
The rise of the Omicron variant resulted in backups at several test sites, and COVID-19 test kits at home were difficult to find.
With the start of the new year, several school districts and colleges in Washington returned to distance learning in response to the omicron rise.
On January 18, 2022, a federal website where people could request free COVID-19 tests went live. And one day later, the Biden administration will begin making 400 million N95 masks available to Americans free of charge to help protect against the omicron variant.
RELATED: Free government COVID test kits are now available: Everything you need to know
Two years later, hospitals in the state of Washington have been in their worst situation since the COVID-19 pandemic started. Hospitals have stopped non-urgent procedures, and Inslee deployed the Washington National Guard across the state to help hospitals and set up test sites.
As of this week, the state of Washington has reported more than 1 million cases and more than 10,000 deaths over the past two years.
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