Bearing Witness
The Covid-19 & Inequality History Documentation Project


We have chosen to organize timeline events by date to ensure the practicality and useability of the timelines; these timelines encompass hundreds of coronavirus events that occur from December 2019 through December 2020.

December–March 2020

This first timeline in the series documents the evolving impact of the novel coronavirus on racialized minorities in the United States from December 2019 through March 2020. Key events covered in this timeline include:

  • The classification of the novel coronavirus as a “pandemic” by the World Health Organization.
  • The first documented cases of Covid-19 in New York City in March 2020, followed by documented cases across the United States.
  • The rapid spread of Covid-19 in domestic prisons and jails and accompanying activism surrounding the rights of incarcerated individuals during the pandemic.
  • The rise in self-reported hate crimes, especially among Asian Americans, following the Trump Administration’s xenophobic rhetoric concerning virus origins.
  • The demands for comprehensive racial and ethnic data to monitor and address racial disparities in the national response to the Covid-19 outbreak among democratic lawmakers and public health advocates.

April–June 2020

This second timeline in the series documents the evolving impact of the novel coronavirus on racialized minorities in the United States from April 2020 through June 2020. Key events covered in this timeline include:

  • The fervent demand for the standardized reporting of demographic data—including race, ethnicity, age, and sex information–among democratic policymakers, public health officials, and activists to document disparate impacts in covid-19 morbidity and mortality. This demand prompts the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to release new guidance on Covid-19 reporting.   
  • The publication of numerous studies documenting the disproportionate impact of covid-19 on communities of color; studies detail disparities in cases, testing, and morbidity and mortality.
  • The recognition of the relationship between Covid-19 disparities and systemic racism by National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci in a House Committee Hearing. U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams also links the disparate impacts of covid-19 on communities of color to structural racism. 
  • The development of interactive Covid-19 tracking dashboards by multiple universities and research centers to investigate the disparate impact of COVID-19 in counties across the United States. The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also creates an interactive Covid-19 tracker composed of maps, charts, and data. 
  • The rapid increase in covid-19 cases and deaths in jails and state and federal prisons as documented by public health advocates and nonprofits such as the Marshall Project.  Rising cases prompt some federal and state action, including the expedited release of medically vulnerable inmates and those incarcerated for low-level offenses. 
  • The investigation of inequalities in social determinants that contribute to increased risk of Covid-19 sickness and death among racial and ethnic minorities, including the overrepresentation of these populations in essential work settings such as healthcare, factories, grocery stores, and public transportation. 

July–September 2020

This third timeline in the series documents the evolving impact of the novel coronavirus on racialized minorities in the United States from July 2020 through September 2020. Key events covered in this timeline include:

  • The increased study Covid-19 outcomes and symptoms in children;  the CDC, for example, determined that Black and Hispanic children are significantly more likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19.  
  • The launch of Covid-19 clinical trials, which faced mounting criticism due to the slow recruitment of Latinx, African American, and indigenous participants. 
  • The continued attention to the spread of coronavirus within American jails and prisons and reports on rising cases and deaths among incarcerated individuals and correctional officers.  The racial makeup of COVID-19 cases within prison facilities remained obscured during this time, even though people of color are disproportionately affected by the virus and mass incarceration. 
  • The startling increase in Covid-19 cases among pregnant Latinx women, suggesting that there has been an underestimation of disease impact on the Latinx community as a whole.
  • The publication of numerous studies and reports on limited healthcare access, rent-related hardships, housing displacement, food insecurity, and employment insecurity among communities of color across the United States during the pandemic. 
  • The introduction of the COVID-19 Health Disparities Action Act by House Democrats; the Act aims to improve contact tracing efforts, testing accessibility, and public awareness pertaining to the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on communities of color. 

October-December 2020

This fourth timeline in the series documents the evolving impact of the novel coronavirus on racialized minorities in the United States from October 2020 through December 2020. Key events covered in this timeline include:

  • The release of a four-phase framework for the equitable distribution of a Covid-19 vaccine by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine; physicians and journalists debated the strengths and limitations of this framework after its release. Distribution debates became increasingly heightened following the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s release of an emergency use authorization (EUA) for a Pfizer-developed vaccine on December 11, 2020. There is generally broad agreement that frontline workers, healthcare staff, and nursing home occupants should be among the first recipients of a vaccine.
  • The work of physicians and public health officials to address vaccine hesitancy among minority communities across America; medical professionals explain this hesitancy as broadly linked to the inadequate representation of minorities in Covid-19 vaccination trails, the persistence of medical distrust in the decades following the Tuskegee syphilis experiment, and the broader history of systemic racism in the United States.
  • The continued reporting of Covid-19 outbreaks in prisons and jails across the United States; in one instance, the ACLU and other civil rights groups sued the Federal Bureau of Prisons over its handling of Covid-19 outbreaks at the prison in Butner, North Carolina. During this period, there is also mounting advocacy surrounding the rights of incarcerated individuals to economic stimulus checks.
  • The release of a report—developed by researchers at the Providence Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Lifespan Hospitals, and the Warren Alpert Medical School at Brown University in Rhode Island—on the connection between poor housing conditions and the incidence of and mortality associated with Covid-19. Additional studies also explored the impact of homelessness on Covid-19 outcomes.
  • The continued investigation of Covid-19 outcomes in children; the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association collaborated to synthesize data of Covid-19 cases among children. The collaborators found that since the pandemic outset, child cases increased from roughly 2% to 11% in states reporting cases by age. Despite mounting cases among children, hospitalization rates and mortality remain low.
  • The increased reporting on the relationship between the Covid-19 pandemic and gender-based violence and gender inequality. Women in the United States, for example, have broadly experienced significant job losses and unsafe working conditions in “contact-intensive” industries (e.g., education, health services, and retail); working women also bear a significant burden from the mass closure of schools and daycare centers.