The year 2020 will go down as one of the craziest in our lifetimes. From the coronavirus and its many effects, to a crazy political season, take a look back on the top stories that defined the past 12 months.
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle step back from roles
This strange year started off with a shift in the royal family. On Jan. 8, Britain’s Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan Markle, announced that they would step back as “senior” members of the royal family. Instead, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex said they would split time between Europe and North America in 2020. On Instagram, they said they hoped to carve out a more "progressive" role and wanted to become "financially independent."
U.S. airports begin screening for coronavirus
As initial reports started to come out of China about a dangerous virus, the U.S. began to prepare. On Jan. 17, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced it would begin screening airline passengers from Wuhan for the new coronavirus. Officials chose to screen at JFK International, San Francisco International, and Los Angeles International airports, because flights between Wuhan and the U.S. bring most passengers through them.
CDC confirms first case of COVID-19 in U.S.
The coronavirus pandemic officially arrived in the United States towards the end of January. The CDC confirmed the first case of COVID-19 in U.S. in the state of Washington on Jan. 21. The patient recently returned from Wuhan, China, where the first coronavirus outbreak was reported. At the time, it wasn’t clear how easily the virus would spread.
Kobe Bryant dies in helicopter crash
Basketball legend Kobe Bryant was among nine people who died in a helicopter crash on Jan. 26. The NBA star’s 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, also passed away when the aircraft went down in Calabasas, California. The news of Bryant’s death rocked the sports world and led to many memorials and tributes.
COVID-19 outbreak on Diamond Princess cruise ship
Hundreds of passengers and crew members aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship were diagnosed with the coronavirus, and at least 14 people died as a result. It was the first big high-profile outbreak aboard a cruise ship, and it foreshadowed the industry’s tough year. Since then, most cruises have been suspended to prevent further outbreaks.
Kansas City Chiefs win Super Bowl
The Kansas City Chiefs broke their 50-year Super Bowl drought on Feb. 2, defeating the San Francisco 49ers 31-20. It was the team’s second Super Bowl win in club history, with the first being in 1969. Fans were so excited, their celebratory fireworks showed up on the National Weather Service’s radar.
Pelosi rips up State of the Union speech
After Donald Trump made his fourth State of the Union speech before a joint session of Congress on Feb. 4, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi stole the show when she ripped up her printed off version of the president’s speech. The lengthy speech also started off on a contentious note, when Trump passed on handshake from Pelosi.
Senate acquits Trump in impeachment trial
Two months after Donald Trump became the third U.S. president to be impeached, the Senate voted on Feb. 5 to acquit him on both counts he was facing – abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. Republican Mitt Romney was the only senator to break party lines when he voted for conviction on abuse of power.
‘Parasite’ wins Best Picture
History was made on Feb. 9, when “Parasite” became the first foreign language film to win Best Picture at the Academy Awards. The movie about a grifter family that infiltrates the life of a wealthy family won four Oscars, including best director for Bong Joon Ho and best international film.
Clyburn endorses Biden
Feb. 26 marked a pivotal moment in the Democratic presidential primary, when U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn endorsed Joe Biden. Many political experts believe the endorsement helped swing the primary election in the former vice president’s direction. The endorsement came before the South Carolina primary, which was Biden’s first win. It gave him the momentum to claim the nomination and eventually the White House.
WHO declares global pandemic
On March 11, the World Health Organization declared the outbreak of COVID-19 was a global pandemic. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of WHO, said at a briefing that the agency was “deeply concerned by the alarming levels of spread and severity” of the outbreak. He also expressed concern about “the alarming levels of inaction.” The declaration marked the moment when many began to take COVID-19 seriously.
Tom Hanks gets COVID
Also on March 11, actor Tom Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson were among the first high-profile entertainers to announce they had tested positive for the coronavirus. Many more celebrities would later reveal they also were diagnosed.
Trump declares COVID-19 a national emergency
Soon after WHO declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic, President Donald Trump declared the novel coronavirus a nation emergency on March 13. By doing so, he was able to unlock billions of dollars in federal funding needed to fight the disease’s spread in the U.S.
Breonna Taylor shot and killed
Breonna Taylor was one of several Black Americans whose police killings made headlines in 2020. The 26-year-old EMT was shot and killed by officers in her Louisville apartment on March 13. Her death didn’t initially make many national headlines, but the case would later become one of the most prominent in the Black Lives Matter movement, which gained steam over the summer.
CA is first to issue state-at-home order
On March 19, California became the first state to issue a stay-at-home order, mandating all residents to stay at home except to go to an essential job or shop for essential needs. The order also instructed hospitals to prioritize services to those who are the sickest. Like dominos, most states followed suit with similar orders.
The Summer Olympic Games are highly anticipated every four years, but like many things during the pandemic, they were put on hold. On March 24, Japan and the International Olympic Committee agreed to postpone the 2020 games for up to one year. They’re now scheduled to begin in July of 2021, with the assumption the pandemic will be under control by then.
CARES Act passed
In response to the coronavirus pandemic, Congress passed an economic stimulus bill called the CARES Act on March 27 to help the American people get through the upcoming months of hardship. The $2.2 trillion legislation was the largest economic stimulus package in U.S. history. Many items were included, including direct payments, unemployment benefits, the creation of the Paycheck Protection Program, loans for corporations, and money for state and local governments.
Sanders drops out of race
On April 8, Sen. Bernie Sanders announced he was ending his bid for the presidency, which cleared the path for Joe Biden to claim the nomination. The progressive two-time candidate was a frontrunner in the Democratic primary before moderates consolidated their supporters. Sanders ended up endorsing Biden, who went on to claim victor against President Donald Trump.
Tensions over COVID-19 restrictions boil over
In response to COVID-19 restrictions, some people took the streets to protest stay-at-home orders. The demonstrations in Michigan were among the most publicized, with some heavily armed protesters who gathered outside the state’s capitol building. Those protests would later escalate to a kidnapping plot against Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, which law enforcement ended up foiling.
FDA grants EUA to remdesivir
On May 1, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an emergency use authorization for the antiviral drug remdesivir for the treatment of COVID-19 in adults and children who are hospitalized. The authorization came after a trial the treatment accelerated recovery in people with advanced COVID-19 and lung involvement.
Death of George Floyd
On May 25, an unarmed and handcuffed Black man named George Floyd died after a Minneapolis police officer used his leg to pin the 46-year-old’s neck to the ground for about nine minutes. The gruesome incident was caught on camera and was then widely seen. Floyd’s death was among the police deaths that prompted Black Lives Matter protesters to take to the streets over the summer, demanding an end to racial injustice, especially when it comes to police. The officers involved in Floyd’s death were fired and are facing charges.
Historic SpaceX launch
On May 30, SpaceX made history when it became the first commercial aerospace company to carry humans into Earth’s orbit. Two NASA astronauts successfully disembarked the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule and entered the International Space Station on May 31.
Peaceful protesters cleared for Trump photo-op
On June 1, law enforcement used tear gas and riot control tactics to forcefully clear Black Lives Matter protesters from Lafayette Square to create a path for President Donald Trump and other administration officials to walk to St. John’s Episcopal Church to pose for a photo op. Some called the move an affront to the First Amendment right to freedom of assembly.
Confederate statues toppled
Throughout the month of June, several Confederate statues were taken down amid the protests that followed George Floyd’s death. Statues were taken down in cities like Richmond, Norfolk, Charleston, Louisville and Jacksonville. The taking down of the figures stirred debate with some saying they mark history and honor heritage, while others say they’re racist symbols that glorify the nation’s legacy of slavery.
NASCAR prohibits Confederate flag
On June 10, NASCAR announced that it would now prohibit the Confederate flag from all of its events and properties. The racing organization said the presence of the flag runs contrary to its commitment to providing a welcoming and inclusive environment for its fans, its competitors and the industry.
Trump’s Tulsa rally
After he avoided holding reelection rallies for a few months due to the pandemic, President Donald Trump returned to the campaign trail on June 20. He held a rally in Tulsa despite public health officials warning that it could be a super-spreader event due to a recent spike in coronavirus cases in Oklahoma. Former presidential candidate Herman Cain was in attendance. He would go on to test positive for coronavirus shortly after and pass away from COVID-19. Though, it's unclear where he contracted the virus.
WHO announces COVID can be airborne
The World Health Organization announced on July 9 that the coronavirus can be transmitted through the air. WHO noted that the virus may linger in the air in crowded indoor spaces and emphasized that it may be spread by asymptomatic people. Before, the organization said the disease was primarily spread via small droplets from the nose and mouth that were emitted when an infected person coughs, sneezes or speaks.
John Lewis dies
On July 17, U.S. Rep. John Lewis died at the age of 80. The civil rights icon had been undergoing treatment in his battle with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. Many memorials were held to honor the life of the long-serving congressman.
NFL’s D.C. team drops problematic name
The NFL’s team in Washington D.C. announced on July 23 that it would be retiring its “Redskins” name and logo by the start of the 2020 season. Until a new name is chosen, they’ll be referred to as the “Washington Football Team.” The change came after years of complaints from Native American groups that said it was an ethnic slur.
States reverse reopening plans
As areas of the country experienced a “summer surge” of coronavirus cases, several states postponed or reversed their plans to reopen their economies. Since then, states have adjusted their restrictions according to rising and lowering case rates.
On Aug. 4, an explosion at the port of the city of Beirut, Lebanon, injured thousands of people and left many dead. The stunning blast was caught on camera and quickly circulated online. Officials believe the explosion was caused by a stockpile of ammonium nitrate, a highly explosive chemical that’s often used as fertilizer.
Biden chooses Harris as running mate
On Aug. 11, Joe Biden announced that Sen. Kamala Harris would be his vice-presidential running mate. Since the two ended up winning the 2020 election in November, Harris will be the first female vice president of the U.S. and the first African American in the role.
Shooting of Jacob Blake leads to protests
On Aug. 23, a Black man named Jacob Blake was shot multiple times in the back by police officers in Kenosha as he entered an SUV. The shooting led to large protests in the Wisconsin city. During one of those demonstrations, 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse allegedly shot three protesters. He was later arrested and charged with intentional homicide.
Convalescent plasma is cleared for use by FDA
On Aug. 23, the FDA issued an emergency use authorization for convalescent plasma from recovered COVID-19 patients as a therapy to fight the novel coronavirus. It marked another major step in the country’s fight to overcome the pandemic.
Hurricane Laura hit Louisiana
On Aug. 27, Hurricane Laura made landfall near Cameron, Louisiana. The Category 4 storm ended up killing at dozens of people and caused widespread damage to the state. It was the first major hurricane of the record-breaking 2020 Atlantic hurricane season.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg dies
On Sept. 18, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died at the age of 87. The civil rights icon passed away due to complications of pancreatic cancer. About a week later, President Donald Trump nominated Amy Coney Barrett to succeed her on the high court. The conservative federal appeals court judge ended up being confirmed quickly in October, which was seen as a win for Trump before the 2020 election.
Grand jury decision in Breonna Taylor case
On Sept. 23, a grand jury announced that it would not bring charges against Louisville police for the killing of Breonna Taylor. Prosecutors said the two officers who fired their weapons were justified in using force to protect themselves after they were shot at. The only charges brought by the jury were three counts of wanton endangerment against officer Brett Hankison for shooting into the home of one of Taylor’s neighbors.
First presidential debate
On Sept. 29, Donald Trump and Joe Biden faced off in their first presidential debate. However, many saw the event as less of a debate and more of a shouting match, where the candidates spoke over each other and the moderator, Fox News anchor Chris Wallace.
Trump diagnosed with COVID-19
President Donald Trump announced on Oct. 2 that he and first lady Michelle Obama tested positive for the coronavirus. After experiencing “mild symptoms,” Trump was taken to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where he received an experimental antibody treatment. After three days of treatment, Trump then left the hospital and returned to the White House, where he finished recovering.
On Oct. 7, Mike Pence debated Kamala Harris for the first and only time at the University of Utah. While the debate was celebrated for being easier to watch than the first presidential debate, it wasn’t the candidates that stole the show. A fly that landed on Pence’s head for an extended period of time was arguably the most memorable part of the event.
Lakers win NBA finals
On Oct. 11, the Los Angeles Lakes became the year’s NBA champions, defeating the Miami Heat 106-93 in Game 6 of the finals. It marked the West Coast team’s 17th NBA title, tying the Boston Celtics for the record. The win was even more emotional for L.A. fans after losing longtime Laker Kobe Bryant earlier in the year.
Last presidential debate
The second scheduled presidential debate was canceled after President Donald Trump contracted the coronavirus, but he and Joe Biden faced off for a final time on Oct. 22 at Belmont University. The matchup went smoother than their first faceoff, largely because the election commission changed the rules to allow the candidates to be muted while the other spoke.
As if 2020 wasn’t stressful enough, it was also the year “murder hornets” made their way to the U.S. The Washington State Department of Agriculture announced on Oct. 23 that its entomologists located the first-ever Asian giant hornet nest in the U.S. on Oct. 24. The insects are the world’s largest hornets and a predator of honeybees, as well as other bugs.
Dodgers win World Series
On Oct. 27, the Los Angeles Dodgers won the World Series. The L.A. team prevailed in Game 6, defeating the Rays 3-1 to take home the Commissioner’s Trophy. Like everything else, the season was affected by the pandemic. While a normal MLB season consists of 162 games, the 2020 season lasted just 60 games going into the playoffs.
Biden declared winner of 2020 election
On Nov. 7, four days after Election Day, nearly every major media outlet projected that Joe Biden had won the presidency, defeating incumbent President Donald Trump. The win was historical in many ways. At 77 years old, Biden will be the oldest president in U.S. history. It also marked the first time an incumbent president lost in the U.S. since George H.W. Bush was ousted by Bill Clinton in 1992.
Trump begins legal battle to contest election
After Joe Biden was declared president-elect, President Donald Trump refused to concede the race and claimed, without evidence, that the election was somehow stolen from him. Trump and his legal team filed many lawsuits across the country in an attempt to contest the results, but nearly all of them were dismissed, because of a lack of voter fraud evidence.
Electoral College affirms Biden’s victory
On Dec. 14, electors gathered to formally affirm that President-elect Joe Biden was indeed the victor of the 2020 presidential election. Typically, the Electoral College vote is little more than a rubber stamp approval of the November election. However, the post-electoral government machinery has received more attention than in elections past due to President Donald Trump's attempts to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
Vaccines authorized by FDA
On Dec. 11, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized the first COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use in the U.S. The first vaccine to be approved was from Pfizer and BioNTech. It was found to be 95% effective after two doses. On Dec. 18, the FDA also authorized Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine, which has been considered 94.1% effective.
American begin to be vaccinated
The first Americans began receiving Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine on Dec. 14. An ICU nurse in New York state was among the first receive her initial dose. In the days following, many other health care workers received their first doses, as did prominent lawmakers. The vaccinations began at a time when the country was seeing record numbers of COVID-19 cases and deaths.
$908 billion relief package is passed
After months of negotiations, Congress was able to pass another COVID-19 relief bill in the final weeks of December. President Donald Trump signed the legislation into law on Dec. 27. The massive bill includes more than $900 billion in relief funding, including money for another round of direct payments for Americans, unemployment benefits, support for businesses, rental assistance, and vaccine distribution.
COVID-19 claims over 330,00 lives in US in 2020
As we close out this dark year, the coronavirus death count in the U.S. stands at more than 336,500 and nearly 19,427,800 cases have been confirmed across the country, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University. The U.S. still leads the world in cases and deaths, but officials are optimistic about bringing the pandemic to a close in 2021 through vaccinations.