First COVID Case in U.S. Diagnosed 3 Years Ago

2 min read

Jan. 20, 2023 – After the COVID-19 pandemic began in late 2019 in Wuhan, China, health authorities across the globe anxiously wondered when the virus would cross the border into their nation. 

In the United States, it happened 3 years ago, on Jan. 20, 2020, when the nation’s first case of COVID-19 was diagnosed in in Snohomish County, WA, just north of Seattle. 

“The patient from Washington with confirmed 2019-nCoV infection returned to the United States from Wuhan on January 15, 2020,” the CDC said in a news release at the time. “The patient sought care at a medical facility in the state of Washington, where the patient was treated for the illness. Based on the patient’s travel history and symptoms, healthcare professionals suspected this new coronavirus.”

A specimen was sent to the CDC overnight, where lab testing confirmed the diagnosis for the man in his 30s.

In late February 2020, the CDC reported the first COVID death in the nation, again in Washington state. The fatality was a man in his 50s.

Since then, the virus has spread across the world. Almost 102 million cases have been diagnosed in the U.S., with more than 1.1 million COVID-related deaths – the most cases and deaths of any nation, according to the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center. 

Globally, there have been more than 668 million cases and 6.7 million COVID-related deaths.

The World Health Organization declared a pandemic on March 11, 2020.

Maria Van Kerkhove, PhD, the WHO’s technical lead for the COVID-19 response, said the virus has not settled into a predictable pattern, according to CNN.

“We didn’t need to have this level of death and devastation, but we’re dealing with it, and we are doing our best to minimize the impact going forward,” she told the Conversations on Health Care podcast. 

Show Sources


CDC: “First Travel-related Case of 2019 Novel Coronavirus Detected in United States,” “CDC, Washington State Report First COVID-19 Death.”

Johns Hopkins University: “COVID-19 Dashboard.”

CNN: “US confirmed country’s first case of Covid-19 three years ago Friday.”

View privacy policy, copyright and trust info