Timeline Art


Dec. 31: The World Health Organization China Country Office is informed of strange cases of pneumonia from an unknown cause in Wuhan City, Hubei Province of China. This is the first report to WHO, though the virus’s origin could later be traced to late November or early December 2019.


Jan 11

Jan. 11: Chinese state media report the first known death of the 2019 novel coronavirus, according to The New York Times.

Jan. 17: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection announce health screenings at three major airports in San Francisco, New York and Los Angeles to screen for the novel coronavirus.

Jan 21

Jan. 21: The CDC confirms the first travel-related case of coronavirus in the United States. The man, a Washington resident, returned to the United States on Jan. 15 from Wuhan, China.

 Jan. 30: The CDC confirms the first U.S. person-to-person spread of the novel coronavirus.

WHO declares the fight against the virus a global health emergency.

Jan. 31: U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar declares a public health emergency in response to the novel coronavirus.

University of Nebraska-Lincoln Chancellor Ronnie Green announces all study abroad programs in China will be suspended for the remainder of the spring semester based on a travel advisory from the CDC. Green says University of Nebraska-Lincoln officials are working with students to bring them back to the United States. All travel for faculty and staff to China is also restricted.

Feb. 1, 2020


Feb. 7: Camp Ashland in Nebraska becomes a quarantine location for 57 Americans. The individuals departed on Feb. 20 after the 14-day quarantine.

Feb. 29: The CDC confirms the first known death from COVID-19 in Washington. However, officials in California announced in April two residents died due to COVID-19 on Feb. 6 and Feb. 17, making these deaths the earliest known in the United States, according to The New York Times.

March 1, 2020


March 5: Green announces all university-sponsored international travel for students is suspended through the spring semester. Students can remain in countries abroad as long as the CDC travel advisory for that country is below level three. 

Green announces the establishment of UNL’s COVID-19 Task Force.

March 6

March 6: Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts confirms Nebraska’s first case of the novel coronavirus — a 36-year-old woman who had recently traveled to the United Kingdom.

March 9: College of Business Dean Kathy Farrell and then-Nebraska College of Law Acting Dean Anna Shavers email their respective colleges after one student in each college attended the Special Olympics tournament in Fremont on Feb. 29, the same event that the woman who was confirmed positive on March 6 attended. Both students are asymptomatic and in self-quarantine.

March 11

UNL’s Faculty Senate approves a temporary attendance policy that says students will not be penalized for missing class due to sickness or self-quarantine, according to an announcement from Green.

March 11: WHO officially characterizes COVID-19 as a global pandemic, the first pandemic caused by a coronavirus.

Big 10

The Big Ten Conference announces all remaining winter and spring competitions will have limited attendance to include only event staff, essential team and conference personnel, credentialed media and immediate family members of participating players beginning March 12. The NCAA made a similar announcement two hours prior.

UNL staff begin preparing the Piper wing of Neihardt Hall to be used as a quarantined living space.

March 12

March 12: UNL orders all students studying abroad in European countries where the CDC has issued level three travel warnings to leave the country by March 15.

Nebraska Athletics announces all home sporting events will be limited to athletes, essential personnel, media and immediate family members. All of UNL’s non-Nebraska Athletics events are canceled.

Green announces UNL will cancel classes March 16-20, the week before spring break, and transition to remote learning on March 30. All domestic and international UNL-sponsored travel is canceled through June 30. Students are allowed to remain on campus but are encouraged to return home.

The Big Ten cancels all conference and non-conference activities for the remainder of the academic year and announces a moratorium on all recruiting activities.

March 13: U.S. President Donald Trump proclaims the COVID-19 outbreak a national emergency.

Ricketts declares state of emergency in Nebraska for COVID-19.

March 14: University of Nebraska President Ted Carter announces NU will offer up to 80 hours of emergency administrative paid leave to employees. This was later doubled on March 26.

March 16: Lincoln Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird declares a state of emergency in Lincoln for COVID-19.

March 17: UNL administrators extend the deadline to withdraw from a course until April 24 and announce the suspension of the Fifteenth Week, or “dead week” Policy. Guidelines for the transition to remote courses are included in the announcement.

March 18: Green announces non-essential employees will start working from home beginning March 23.

The United States surpasses 100 deaths. 

March 19: The Nebraska Unions and Campus Recreation Center locations close.

March 22

March 20: The first confirmed case of COVID-19 is reported in Lincoln.

March 26: The United States surpasses 1000 deaths.

March 27: Trump signs the “Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act” into law.

March 31: Green announces commencement ceremonies scheduled for May 8-9 will be done virtually on May 9. Green says graduates will be invited to an in-person ceremony in the future.

April 1, 2020


April 2: Interim Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Laurie Bellows announces students who do not follow university or local health directives may be put through the UNL Student Code of Conduct process and could face disciplinary action.

NU begins licensing residence halls at all campuses to the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services for additional quarantine spaces.

April 3: Executive Vice Chancellor Elizabeth Spiller announces remote learning will continue for the summer semester at the in-person tuition rate for courses. Online course fees as well as university program and facilities fees are waived.

April 6: Gaylor Baird recommends residents wear face coverings in public.

The United States surpasses 10,000 deaths.

April 7: Carter issues a stay-at-home order to all NU community members, effective April 8. The order is expected to last at least two weeks.

April 8: Gaylor Baird announces a man in his 50s who was hospitalized with COVID-19 died, the first coronavirus-related death in Lincoln.

April 9

April 9: UNL confirms its first case of COVID-19: a Selleck Dining Center employee who had not been in contact with students since March 30 and is self-isolating at home.

University Housing orders a shelter-in-place for all remaining on-campus students. Students are expected to not leave unless for outdoor exercise, food or other essentials.

April 10: UNL asks for at least 1,100 cloth mask donations for essential employees on campus, so each employee can have two masks. This is in response to a national shortage of face masks.

April 14: Carter, along with the three campus chancellors, announces a system-wide hiring freeze, as well as 3% reduced spending in the final quarter by each campus.

April 21: Ricketts launches the #TestNebraskaChallenge for expanded free COVID-19 testing.

April 24: Carter and Green commit to holding classes on campus for the Fall 2020 semester.

May 1, 2020


May 8: The University of Nebraska Medical Center Global Center for Health Security releases a pandemic recovery guide for higher education institutions.

TestNebraska officially launches in Lincoln.

May 11: Gaylor Baird unveils Lincoln’s COVID-19 Risk Dial, a color-coded dial for phases of the pandemic in Lincoln and Lancaster County with specific guidance for each phase.

May 14: NU announces the elimination of 20 positions and plans to cut campus spending amid an estimated $50 million fallout.

May 20

May 21: Green announces building access will no longer be limited starting June 1.

May 22: Nebraska athletic director Bill Moos announces student-athletes can return to campus for voluntary workouts beginning June 1.

May 27: The United States surpasses 100,000 deaths. 

May 29: Green announces plans to begin Fall 2020 classes remotely Aug. 17 and transition to in-person classes Aug. 24. With the plan, classes would end before Thanksgiving and students would not have Labor Day off or a fall break.

June 1, 2020


June 18: Green announces the release of the “Forward to Fall Guiding Framework” as part of the work from the Forward to Fall committee — a subgroup of the COVID-19 Task Force — to plan for a safe return to campus for the Fall 2020 semester.

Green announced the August commencement ceremony would be virtual.

June 19: Carter and Green announce how $43 million in permanent system-wide spending cuts will be implemented over the next three years. Green says UNL will face a total shortfall of $38 million, which includes enrollment and COVID-19 losses.

June 29: Nebraska football head coach Scott Frost announces five football players and one staff member tested positive for COVID-19 since April.

July 1, 2020


July 14: The CDC issues a public statement encouraging Americans to wear face coverings.

July 14

July 17: UNL adopts a face covering policy for all faculty, staff, students and visitors except under specific conditions.

July 20: A health measure goes into effect requiring all individuals 5 years old and older to wear a face covering when indoors unless people are physically distanced.

July 23: Green announces buildings will open starting Aug. 10 and explains how face coverings and campus move-in will work.

Aug. 1, 2020

august 2020.png

Aug. 5: The Big Ten announces the 10-game football season schedule, with Nebraska opening its season on Sept. 5.

Aug 5

Aug. 11: The Big Ten announces all fall sports are postponed until further notice, with pending decisions on winter and spring sports.

Aug. 12: UNL teams up with TestNebraska and begins offering free COVID-19 testing for UNL faculty, staff and students.

Covid swab

Aug. 15: The U.S. Food and Drug administration issues an emergency use authorization for SalivaDirect, a new saliva-based diagnostic test for COVID-19 developed by the Yale School of Public Health. This is the model UNL would eventually adopt.

Aug. 16: A group of 81 parents of Husker football players release an open letter to Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren urging a reconsideration of the fall football season and requesting more transparency. Warren later responds to requests to reconsider the fall football season and says the decision will not be revisited.

Aug. 17: The Fall 2020 semester begins remotely and transitions to in-person learning for some classes on Aug. 24.

Aug. 19: A long-time UNL Information Technology Services employee, Kevin Hopper, dies of complications due to COVID-19, according to Nebraska Today.

Aug. 21: Moos announces 51 of the Athletic Department's 330 employees will be furloughed for four months, and all other staff will see a 10% salary reduction.

Aug. 23: A cluster of one confirmed and four self-reported COVID-19 cases is identified at the Kappa Alpha Theta sorority.

Aug. 27: Eight Huskers football players sue the Big Ten, asking the conference to reverse its postponement of fall sports and further clarify what led to that decision.

A cluster of four confirmed and one self-reported COVID-19 case is identified at the Delta Delta Delta sorority.

Green announces the release of the UNL COVID-19 Dashboard.

Aug. 28: A cluster of five confirmed COVID-19 cases is identified at the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority.

Aug. 30: Two clusters of five and four confirmed COVID-19 cases are identified at the Alpha Phi sorority and Beta Theta Pi fraternity, respectively.

Aug. 31: Four clusters of five confirmed COVID-19 cases each are identified at the Alpha Chi Omega, Delta Gamma, Kappa Delta and Pi Beta Phi sororities.

Sept. 1, 2020


Sept. 2: Three clusters of five, eight and six confirmed COVID-19 cases are identified at the Chi Omega sorority, FarmHouse fraternity and on the third floor of Eastside Suites, respectively.

Sept 8

Sept. 8: Six UNL Greek houses are placed on immediate temporary suspension following large gatherings the night before during “Bid Day” celebrations.

Sept. 16: The Big Ten reverses its decision to postpone football and reinstated the season to kick off the weekend of Oct. 23-24.

Sept. 18: Green announces the university will adopt randomized mitigation testing for COVID-19. The testing will begin Sept. 28.

Sept. 22: The United States surpasses 200,000 deaths.

Sept. 24: UNL announces all group quarantines on campus have ended.

Oct. 1, 2020


Nebraska Athletics gives fans the opportunity to purchase and fill Memorial Stadium with cardboard cutouts.

Oct. 2: A cluster of 6 positive COVID-19 cases is identified on the first floor of Eastside Suites.

Oct. 7: A cluster of 7 positive COVID-19 cases is identified at the Phi Kappa Theta fraternity.

Oct. 9: UNL announces that the six temporary suspensions of Greek houses have ended, and sanctions are imposed on all chapters except for the Alpha Omicron Pi sorority. Student Affairs did not comment on the nature of the sanctions.

Oct. 14: The Nebraska track and field team suspends practice until at least Oct. 19 due to athletes testing positive for COVID-19.

Oct. 26: Ricketts overviews how Nebraska will administer vaccines.

Nov. 1, 2020


Nov. 6: Green announces the fall semester will continue as planned despite Gaylor Baird and the health department announcing there is a severe risk of COVID-19 spreading in the community. He also suspends randomized mitigation testing for the weeks of Nov. 16 and 23 to allow students to get tested at the end of the semester.

Dec. 1, 2020


Dec. 7: Green announces UNL will move forward with its final phase of a projected $38.2 million budget shortfall.

Spit test

Dec. 9: Green announces all UNL faculty, staff and students who will be on campus for the Spring 2021 semester will be required to participate in mandatory COVID-19 saliva testing. UNL community members, including students who are fully remote in Lancaster County, will be required to get a test every two weeks.

Dec. 11: The FDA issues an emergency use authorization for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine.


Dec. 14: Nebraska receives its first shipment of vaccinations, which begin statewide and in Lincoln.

The United States surpasses 300,000 deaths.

Dec. 18: The FDA issues an emergency use authorization for the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine.


Jan. 1, 2021


Jan. 11: Green announces UNL community members who will be on campus for the spring semester must participate in two rounds of re-entry COVID-19 saliva tests rather than be tested every two weeks.

Jan. 15: Nebraska men’s basketball head coach Fred Hoiberg tests positive for COVID-19.

Jan. 19: The United States surpasses 400,000 deaths.

Jan. 20: UNL begins housing COVID-positive students in Selleck 8000, an abandoned wing of the Selleck Quadrangle. In total, 14 students were isolated in the wing between Jan. 20-Feb. 5.

Jan. 25: The Spring 2020 semester begins.

Feb. 1, 2021


The Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department announces the opening of vaccination Phase 1B.

Feb. 3: Green announces faculty, staff and students on campus for the spring semester must take a third re-entry saliva test for COVID-19.

Feb. 15: Green announces UNL will implement mandatory random COVID-19 saliva testing for the remainder of the spring semester beginning on Feb. 18.

Feb. 16: Green announces UNL employees, including student workers, are eligible for the health department’s Phase 1B of COVID-19 vaccine distribution and can sign up through Feb. 24.

Feb. 23: The United States surpasses 500,000 deaths.

Feb. 27: The Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department confirms the first COVID-19 variant in Lincoln — B.1.429, also known as the California variant.

The FDA issues an emergency use authorization for the Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine, developed by Janssen Biotech Inc., a Janssen Pharmaceutical Company of Johnson & Johnson.

March 1, 2021


Green announces UNL will hold in-person commencement on May 7-8.

March 5: Green announces his expectations and hopes for the Fall 2021 semester, including a commitment to more in-person classes, research and events. Future details are expected to be announced in the summer closer to the fall semester based on local conditions and in consultation with local public health officials.

March 10: The Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department confirms the second COVID-19 variant in Lincoln — the U.K. variant, also known as B.1.1.7.

March 11: U.S. President Joe Biden signs the “American Rescue Plan Act of 2021” into law.

Biden directs all states to make Americans 18 years old and older eligible for a COVID-19 vaccination by May 1.


All monthly case counts come from the CDC COVID Data Tracker as of March 11, 2021, at 2:01 p.m.

Art by Andrea Atkinson