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Military Health System

The COVID-19 pandemic, one year later in the DOD

Image of A photo of a hospital ship . Hospital ship USNS Mercy arrives in Los Angeles March 27, 2020, to serve as a referral hospital for non-COVID-19 patients who had been admitted to shore-based hospitals (Photo by: Navy Petty Officer 1st Class David Mora).

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The United States has spent more than one year in various states of physical distancing, mask-wearing, and quarantine as COVID-19 continues to spread around the world.

Since the beginning of the declaration of a national emergency one year ago this month — and even before — the Department of Defense and the Military Health System, and the Defense Health Agency have focused on the top priority of keeping our forces and families safe, providing the highest quality health care possible, maintaining operational readiness, and supporting the national effort to defeat the deadly disease.

The Defense Health Agency's DHA's mission of ensuring a Ready Medical Force/Medically Ready Force has never been more important.

Below is a timeline of how the pandemic has evolved this past year and key accomplishments impacting the DOD, the MHS, and the DHA:


Dec. 8 - First person tests positive in Wuhan, China.


Jan. 9 - World Health Organization announces mysterious coronavirus-related pneumonia in Wuhan.

Jan. 17 - Centers for Disease Control begins screenings at JFK International, San Francisco International, and Los Angeles International airports.

Jan. 18 - CDC begins testing for COVID-19 in the United States.

Jan. 21 - CDC confirms first U.S. coronavirus case, a resident of Washington state.

Jan. 29 - U.S. government establishes COVID-19 interagency task force.

Jan. 30 - Department of Defense issues initial Force Protection Guidance for COVID-19.

Feb. 2 - Global air travel is restricted.

Feb. 3 - United States declares public health emergency.

Feb. 6 - First U.S. death attributed to coronavirus occurs in San Francisco Bay area, Santa Clara County.

Feb. 9 - Vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff establishes COVID-19 Crisis Management Team.

Feb. 11 - WHO officially names the novel coronavirus disease COVID-19.

Feb. 28 - DOD establishes the DOD COVID-19 Task Force.

March 5 - Airmen from the California National Guard deliver virus testing kits to the Grand Princess cruise ship off the coast of California.

March 10 - 270 members of the New York National Guard are deployed to deliver school lunches and sanitize public buildings in a one-square mile containment zone in New Rochelle, New York.

March 11 - WHO declares COVID-19 a pandemic.

March 13 - President Donald J. Trump declares national emergency.

March 16 - Moderna begins phase 1 clinical trials of investigational vaccine for COVID-19.

March 17 - United States records 100th death from coronavirus. West Virginia is the last state to confirm a COVID-19 case. All 50 U.S. states have confirmed cases.

March 21 - First DOD death attributed to coronavirus, a contractor for the Defense Security Cooperation Agency in Arlington, Virginia.

March 27 - USNS Mercy arrives in Los Angeles to support the U.S. COVID-19 response efforts and serve as a referral hospital for non-COVID-19 patients admitted to shore-based hospitals in the greater Los Angeles area.

March 30 - USNS Comfort arrives in New York to support the front lines of the COVID-19 response.

May 4 - Pfizer initiates clinical trials of COVID-19 vaccine candidate in the United States.

May 27 - United States surpasses 100,000 deaths attributed to COVID-19.

July 27 - Moderna begins phase 3 clinical trials of vaccine for COVID-19.

Military health personnel wearing a face mask giving the COVID-19 vaccine
Army Cpt. Isaiah Horton, a doctor at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, receives one of the military’s first COVID-19 vaccinations at the Bethesda, Maryland, facility on Dec. 14, 2020 (Department of Defense photo by Lisa Ferdinando).

Aug. 20 - DOD reaches more than 50,000 presumed COVID-19 cases (military, military dependents, DOD civilian employees, DOD contractors).

Aug. 23 - FDA issues an emergency use authorization for convalescent plasma to treat COVID-19.

Aug. 31 - AstraZeneca begins phase 3 clinical trials in the United States of vaccine for COVID-19. Five DOD medical treatment facilities support the trial.

Sept. 23 - Johnson & Johnson begins phase 3 clinical trials of Janssen vaccine for COVID-19.

Sept. 28 - Global COVID-19 deaths surpass 1 million.

Sept. 30 - DOD attains a four-month goal to collect 10,000 units of COVID-19 convalescent plasma from patients who have fully recovered from COVID-19 to support the development of an effective treatment against the disease.

Oct. 16 - HHS and DOD announce agreements with CVS and Walgreens to provide COVID-19 vaccine with no out-of-pocket costs for vulnerable Americans in long-term care facilities nationwide once vaccines are available and recommended for them.

Nov. 1 - DOD begins rapid, on-site COVID-19 testing for passengers departing Baltimore Washington International Airport and Seattle Tacoma Airport aboard Patriot Express flights for official duty at overseas locations.

Nov. 15 - Johnson & Johnson announces beginning of second global phase 3 clinical trials of its Janssen COVID-19 vaccine candidate.

Nov. 17 - DOD surpasses 100,000 presumed COVID-19 cases (including military, military dependents, DOD civilian employees, DOD contractors).

Nov. 27 - DOD extends the limited exception to its telework policy provided by the USD memo on March 8, 2020.

Dec. 3 - President Trump authorizes an extension through March 31, 2021, for the use of the National Guard for COVID-19 assistance in 44 states and the territories of Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Dec. 9 - DOD announces its COVID-19 vaccine distribution plans and phased population schema.

Dec. 11 - FDA issues emergency use authorization for Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in the United States.

Dec. 14 - First vaccinations administered in the United States and the DOD.

Dec. 18 - FDA issues emergency use authorization for Moderna COVID-19 vaccine in the United States.


Feb. 5 - Secretary of Defense approves deployment of 1,100 active-duty service members to assist with FEMA COVID-19 vaccination centers.

Feb. 11 - DOD and DHHS purchase additional 100 million doses of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines.

Feb. 22 - DOD administers its 1 millionth vaccine.

Feb. 22 - United States surpasses 500,000 deaths attributed to COVID-19.

Feb. 27 - FDA issues emergency use authorization for Johnson & Johnson's Janssen COVID-19 vaccine in the United States.

Feb. 28 - Pfizer and BioNTech begin global clinical trial to evaluate COVID-19 vaccine in pregnant women.

March 13 - United States passes one full year of the national pandemic emergency.

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Last Updated: September 27, 2022
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