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Restaurant Industry's Pandemic Timeline

By: Ainslee Garcia



  • December 31, 2019: A pneumonia of unknown cause is reported to the Chinese country office of the World Health Organization (WHO)



  • January 10, 2020: WHO issues its first guidance on the new pneumonia-like cases, stating that cases could have derived from a new coronavirus strain

  • January 21, 2020: The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) confirms the first case of coronavirus in the United States

  • January 28, 2020: Starbucks closes 2,150 of its China locations following a rise in COVID-19 cases

  • January 30, 2020: The World Health Organization declares COVID-19 a “Public Health Emergency of International Concern” for only the sixth time in history

  • January 31, 2020: The United States Health and Human Services Secretary announces that COVID-19 is a national public health emergency


  • February 3, 2020: The National Restaurant Association offers guidelines for restaurants to mitigate the effects of the coronavirus

  • February 17, 2020: WHO issues guidance on the treatment of ill travelers and mass gatherings


  • March 5, 2020: A survey by Technomic shows 32% of respondents plan to eat at restaurants less frequently as a result of the pandemic

  • March 11, 2020: Who declares COVID-19 a pandemic, the first in history sparked by a coronavirus

  • March 12, 2020: A study by Womply finds that sales by Chinese restaurants have fallen by 1% since January, likely due to a rise in anti-Asian rhetoric and hate crimes

  • March 12, 2020: New York requires restaurants to cut seating in half, one of the earliest such measures to be implemented

  • March 13, 2020: The Trump administration declares COVID-19 a national emergency

  • March 15, 2020: States begin enacting mandatory closures of restaurants, bars, and clubs, restricting indoor dining in part or entirely

  • March 17, 2020: A survey by Black Box Intelligence shows 70% of restaurants have witnessed a downturn in consumption since March 13

  • March 18, 2020: The National Restaurant Association estimates the industry may lose $225 billion in sales within the next 3 months

  • March 19, 2020: California issues the first stay-at-home order, barring residents from non-essential activities

  • March 21, 2020: Restaurants begin selling groceries and pre-made meals, the start of a new shift in marketing 

  • March 24, 2020: Yum Brands states 7,000 restaurants have closed as a result of the pandemic

  • March 25, 2020: Technomic claims restaurant sales may decline 11% to 27% by the end of 2020

  • March 27, 2020: President Trump signs the CARES act into law, offering aid to small businesses, citizens, hospitals, restaurants, and governments

  • March 27, 2020: The National Restaurant Association states that 3% of restaurants have permanently closed and the number could increase by 11% within a month

  • March 30, 2020: Research from the National Restaurant Association shows that 3 million jobs and $25 billion in sales were lost within the restaurant industry in the first 22 days of March


  • April 3, 2020: Reports from the US Department of Labor show the restaurant industry lost 417,000 jobs in the first half of March

  • April 8, 2020: The FDA lifts federal menu-labeling regulations, making it easier for restaurants to change delivery and take-off menus without a risk of sanctions

  • April 9, 2020: Same-store sales for restaurants fell by 28.3% in March 2020 in the worst month in recorded history

  • April 20, 2020: Georgia states it will allow restaurants to reopen indoor dining rooms on April 27, the first state to announce such an action

  • April 20, 2020: At odds with Georgia’s plan, Denver’s mayor plans to extend the city’s restaurant shutdown

  • April 23, 2020: Some Colorado restaurants decide that reopening in May 2020 is too risky


  • May 12, 2020: California’s governor releases guidelines for restaurants attempting to reopen

  • May 24, 2020: Colorado’s governor allows restaurants to reopen indoor dining, requiring social distancing and increased health measures


  • June 5, 2020: Various counties in California reopen indoor and outdoor dining in a hopeful step toward reopening

  • June 10, 2020: US reaches 2 million COVID-19 cases

  • June 29, 2020: 6-month anniversary of COVID-19 marked by WHO


  • July 2, 2020: Some states see a shift in outbreak epicenters from nursing homes to restaurants, increasing fears of dining indoors

  • July 15, 2020: Starbucks begins requiring customers to wear masks, one of the earliest to do so


  • August 20, 2020: The James Beard Foundation suspends the Restaurant and Chef Awards in both 2020 and 2021 as a result of the pandemic


  • September 15, 2020: A study in the CDC’s Morbity and Mortality Report Weekly shows that the people who tested positive for COVID-19 were 2.4 times more likely to have dined out, increasing fears of dining at restaurants

  • September 25, 2020: New York releases plan to continue outdoor dining indefinitely

  • September 28, 2020: 1 million people had died of COVID-19 globally


  • October 30, 2020: Chicago bans indoor dining


  • Week of November 8, 2020: San Francisco bans indoor dining as states and cities enforce curfews and reinstate lockdowns

  • November 25, 202o: Los Angeles county shuts down outdoor dining following a rise of Thanksgiving travel


  • December 11, 2020: The Pfiezer, BioNTech vaccine is granted Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) in the United States as the first vaccine available to treat COVID-19 in the US

  • December 14, 2020: New York City bans indoor dining

  • December 18, 2020: The Moderna vaccine is granted EUA by the FDA



  • January 11, 2021: The Paycheck Protection Program reopens and $18 billion goes to the restaurant industry by the middle of February


  • February 12, 2021: Indoor dining reopens in New York City at only 25% capacity

  • February 24, 2021: President Biden extends the National Emergency Declaration past March 1, 2021


  • March 10, 2021: Texas lifts all COVID-related capacity limits and its mask mandate

  • March 11, 2021: President Biden signs the American Rescue Plan Act into law, sending additional funds to businesses and individuals


  • April 19, 2021: Anyone age 16 and up is eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccination


  • May 13, 2021: The CDC states that vaccinated Americans do not need to wear masks when gathering with others


  • June 3, 2021: California extends its order to allow restaurants to serve food outdoors as well as serve cocktails to go

  • June 25, 2021: The Federal Reserve extends the Paycheck Protection Program through July 30, 2021 for the last time


  • July 27, 2021: The CDC recommends that all individuals, regardless of vaccination status, should resume wearing masks indoors where COVID is still strong

  • July 29, 2021: More than 300 bars in the San Francisco area begin requiring proof of vaccination or of a negative COVID-19 test

  • July 30, 2021: The Delta variant sweeps across the United States with new reports showing it is as contagious as the chicken pox


  • August 2, 2021: 70% of American adults have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine



“Coronavirus Disease (Covid-19) - Events as They Happen.” World Health Organization, World Health Organization, 2020,

Denton, Robert, and Tynin Fries. “Coronavirus Timeline: An in-Depth Look AT COVID-19 in Colorado.” The Denver Post, The Denver Post, 11 July 2020,

Eby, Kate. “Coronavirus Timeline: Tracking Major Moments of COVID-19 Pandemic in San Francisco Bay Area.” ABC7 San Francisco, KGO-TV, 3 Aug. 2021,

Lovelace, Berkeley, and Nate Rattner. “U.S. Reaches 70% Covid Vaccine Milestone for Adults about a Month Behind Biden's Goal.” CNBC, CNBC, 2 Aug. 2021,

Staff, AJMC. “A Timeline of COVID-19 Developments in 2020.” AJMC, AJMC, 1 Jan. 2021,

Staff, Restaurant Business. “Timeline: The Impact of Coronavirus on Restaurants.” Restaurant Business, Restaurant Business, 23 Apr. 2020,

Thorn , Bret. “One Year of COVID - the Restaurant Industry Is Crushed by the Pandemic.” Nation's Restaurant News, Nation's Restaurant News, 16 Mar. 2021,

“Timeline of Events Related to the Covid-19 Pandemic.” FRASER, FRASER, 

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