The U.S. had faced a variety of infectious diseases in recent decades — SARS, MERS, avian flu, Zika, Ebola and others — and it was unclear how this new coronavirus would be notably different. Some parts of the U.S. had taken action as the initial outbreak in Italy offered a window into just how bad things could get.
But any doubt that the Covid-19 pandemic was about to shatter daily life ended on March 11. What had been a steadily building crisis exploded in a handful of hours.
NBC News spoke with six people about their memories of that day, the decisions they made, the feelings they had and the last moments of their lives before the pandemic put the U.S. and the world on an entirely new track. They are San Francisco Mayor London Breed; Deputy NBA Commissioner Mark Tatum; Jennifer Christie, Twitter’s chief human resources officer; Anita Dunn, then a senior adviser to Joe Biden’s 2020 campaign; Joe Grogan, then the director of the White House Domestic Policy Council; and Dr. Vin Gupta, a Seattle-based pulmonologist who saw some of the first U.S. Covid-19 patients.
The interviews have been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.
Shannon Pettypiece is the senior White House reporter for NBCNews.com.
Ahiza García-Hodges covers the intersection of media, tech, sports and business.