On Jan. 6, 2020, a small news brief appeared in the Ketchikan Daily News under the headline “Authorities: Mysterious illness in China not SARS.”
The three-paragraph item by The Associated Press noted that the SARS epidemic of 2002-2003 had started in southern China and “killed more than 700 people in mainland China, Hong Kong and elsewhere.
“Fears of a SARS recurrence arose this month after a slate of patients were hospitalized with an unexplained viral pneumonia in Wuhan, the capital of Hubei Province,” stated the brief, which concluded with: “As of Sunday, 59 people were diagnosed with the condition.”
This small item on Page 11 — beneath stories about Iran, Venezuela and “How watching TV will change in 2020s” — was the first mention in the Ketchikan Daily News about what would soon be known as the novel coronavirus, and the infection that it produces, COVID-19.
Two years and four days later, we’re typing in an editorial for the Jan. 11, 2022, edition of the Ketchikan Daily News while looking back over that early coverage. Paging through these “first drafts of history” brings back memories of how the virus moved from a back-page curiosity to something commanding the world’s attention.
• Jan. 18-19, 2020: “US to screen passengers from China as concerns grow over mystery illness.”
• Jan. 21, 2020: “200 confirmed cases in China coronavirus outbreak.”
• Jan. 23, 2020: “Chinese city halts all trains and planes in battle to stop spread of new virus.”
• Jan. 25-26, 2020: Outbreak casts pall over Chinese New Year.”
• Jan. 27, 2020: “China extends holiday as new coronavirus toll rises.”
• Jan. 28, 2020: “China reports 106 virus deaths, US to evacuate.” “Outbreak affects Alaska Fisheries.” “US advises travelers to avoid all of China.” “Flight from Wuhan to stop in Alaska: Flight evacuating U.S. citizens from China set to refuel in Anchorage.”
That edition — Jan. 28, 2020 — was our first front page mention of the novel coronavirus. There have been literally hundreds since then.
And, just a few hours ago, the State of Alaska announced that it had counted 3,284 new cases of COVID-19 in Alaska between Friday and Sunday. Eighty people were hospitalized with COVID-19 infections statewide on Sunday. We’re grateful that no new deaths were recorded — at least 948 Alaskans have died from COVID-19 causes during the pandemic to date. As much as we yearn to put the pandemic behind us, it continues.
We’re looking forward to the day when the coronavirus tide recedes to the point of warranting just a mention on page 11 — and then none at all.
May that be soon.