The Year 2020: Coronavirus becomes largest global health threat in a generation

First announced in China in late 2019, COVID-19 quickly crossed the world and came to define news in the U.S. as it claimed more lives here than in any other country.
8:00 | 12/30/20

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Transcript for The Year 2020: Coronavirus becomes largest global health threat in a generation
Now, Dr. Jen Ashton. Covid-19, the disease that defined our lives in 2020. 2020 is now the deadliest year in U.S. History. Since late March, the U.S. Has led the world with the most cases and the most deaths, now at more than 334,000. What began as a faraway outbreak in China -- There is growing concern at this hour over a possible outbreak of ery virus. Whenever we hear, this is new, we haven't seen this before, we have no his on this pathogen, hairs stand on edge. Tonight, authorities confirm it is being spread from human to human. Off the coast of Japan, a quarantined cruise ship became a hot spot. More than 200 people with the virus onboard this cruise ship. "The diamond princess" saw the biggest cluster of cases outside of China. And Italy became the European epicenter. Down this road here, these are the 12 towns which are on lockdown. We've been told actually if we go over this line, we'll end up in quarantine ourselves. I remember going back and forth a couple of times and think, well, itsly's not managed to get the handle on this, but it can't position Bly get much bigger than Italy. Showing us the shocking reality of the virus' lethal strength. Have en briefed by the CDC? I have. Are there words about a pandemic, at this point? No, not at all. And we're -- we have it totally under control. We begin tonight with the breaking news, the first death from coronavirus here in the United States. The CDC is sending a team here to Washington state to help investigate a potential outbreak among the high risk population at this nursing home. In the greatest country in the world, to slowly watch infirm, elderly people be picked off by a deadly disease, it's unacceptable. Tonight, the first containment zone here in America. Restrictions on a community just outside New York City linked to the largest cluster of cases in the co It wasn't a question of if, but when. This is New York. We're a gateway to the world. Days after the virus hit new York, on March 11th, the world health organization declared covid-19 a global pandemic, the first pandemic since H1N1 in 2009. It's going to get worse and worse and worse. It changed our lives. Almost immediately and all at once. All of a sudden I started getting these alerts, "Rudy Gobert tested positive." The NBA is suspending its season indefinitely after a player tested positive. That really sort of kicked off this global shutdown, if you will. That was the moment when people realized this is serious. This is a pandemic. And then it seemed like the reach of the virus kind of touched us immediately when we heard that Tom Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson had both tested positive. The virus will not have a chance against us. No nation is more prepared or more resilient than the united States. New York City's mayor calling the city the epicenter of the spread in the U.S. Now more than 12,000 confirmed cases. 35% of all cases in the country. Pretty much the entire emergency department is a hot zone, at this point. Tonight, with the U.S. Now leading the world in the highest number of people testing positive for coronavirus, purr passing Italy and China. Hospitalizations doubling every four days now. Morgue space is filling up. This grim picture, outside Bellevue hospital, about a dozen of these refrigerator trucks lined up to hold the dead. The nation tried to slow the spread with white house and CDC guidelined to stay at home. 15 days to slow the spread. As we come on the air tonight, much of America shutting down. And then to cover our faces. New CDC guidelines recommending the wearing of masks in public. It's going to be, really a voluntary thing. You can do it, you don't have to do it. I'm choosing not to do it. Just cover your face, because you may be infected with coronavirus, unknowingly have no symptoms and spread it to others. More patients crowding hospitals met a shortage of personal protective equipment for health care workers onto the front lines. Where are we on that personal protective equipment that we know so many healthcare providers need? They are in critical condition. They are, in some cases, using rain ponchos, garbage bags for gowns. Their masks are in critically low supply. We don't make masks here in America. We don't make shields. We don't make those things. I was watching what was going on in the media and thought that be strong, who specializes in disaster relief, should find an entry point, because it really did feel like a massive crisis. And then I created this goal in my mind that I wanted to distribute ppe to all 50 states, to hospitals, police stations, fire stations and clinics. I took it as, well, I know how to make something. I know how to make things. Why don't we try to make things? And we did really quickly. I mean, we were making thousands within two days. After 40 years in government and serving under six presidents, one face became a fixture. Anthony Fauci was the voice that people felt they could trust. This is the kind of doctor you'd want if you were sitting on one of those horrible pieces of white paper, on one of those exam tables, and he was telling you what you ought to do. Ever got a sense, listening to Anthony Fauci, that he was saying anything for political reasons. He was just giving you the facts. And following battles to reopen businesses. We're tired of being able to buy the things that we need, go to the hairdressers, get our hair done. It's time to open up. If you don't want to go back to work, don't go back to work. But don't deny the rest of us the ability to go back to work. Surges of cases as the virus spread across the south. There are parts of this country that are still late to this pandemic. Across the country, c9 has taken a disproportionate toll on already vulnerable communities that have struggled for decades with access to health care. Black and Latino communities are disproportionately affected not only by covid, but by multiple other infections and by multiple other chronic diseases. And so these things, as we know, contribute to why African-Americans disproportionately, are suffering from covid more than other populations. Another part of this country in dire need, navajo nation. Where there are almost no medical facilities at all. The largest hospital nearby is already at capacity. We are essential workers, much more likely to be essential workers. We have to be out there, in the pandemic. The virus tightened its grip across the nation, with a third wave hitting every U.S. State by early fall. And as we entered our darkest days -- We're at a breaking point. So many hospitals are already at or near capacity, that's why this surge tent is being built. Finally, the moment of hope we'd been waiting for. The most ambitious vaccination campaign in our nation's history. Dr. Marina del Rios. You're only as healthy as the most vulnerable members of a society. Getting Chicago's first dose of the pfizer vaccine. Do we applaud? I think so. As we head into 2021, hope for the continued safe and widespread distribution of these vaccines. I am heading over to my hospital where I have an 8:00 appointment to get my covid vaccine. I started to see pictures of my good friends who are also doctors getting vaccinated. I was literally overwhelmed by this sense of relief, like, now they're not going to die. Still, continued concerns over the lingering threats of covid-19 and its terrible toll on the nation. For me, this is part of history, honoring the people who have died of covid. So, a lot of emotions.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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