COVID-19 Timeline at NIH
Highlights May–June 2020
May 4: An NIAID-funded study to determine incidence of novel coronavirus infection in U.S. children begins.
May 4: NIH Clinical Center makes it mandatory for all inpatients to wear surgical masks in their rooms when others are present.
Early May: NIH Clinical Center implements plan to raise the inpatient census and number of outpatient visits. (Elective patients had been deferred since March 10.)
May 7: The NIH-supported Rare Diseases Clinical Research Network launches survey to examine impact of COVID-19 on rare-diseases community.
May 7: NIH Director Francis Collins and others testify before the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions on the RADx (Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics) project that aims to improve existing testing capabilities and develop new testing regimes with the goal of making millions of easy-to-use tests available by the end of the summer.
May 8: NIH clinical trial testing antiviral remdesivir plus anti-inflammatory drug baricitinib for COVID-19 begins.
May 11: NIH Director Francis Collins, NIAID Director Anthony Fauci, Vaccine Research Center Director John Mascola, and a Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center professor publish a joint commentary in Science stressing the importance of a coordinated strategy to accelerate multiple COVID-19 vaccine candidates.
May 12: NIAID Director Anthony Fauci and other members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force testify before the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions on the federal response to the pandemic and reopening phases.
May 14: The NIAID-funded AIDS Clinical Trials Group begins clinical trial of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin to treat COVID-19. (The trial is stopped in June because of inadequate enrollment of participants.)
May 15: Vice President Mike Pence announces five new members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force including NIH Director Francis Collins, Director of FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research Peter Marks, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, Secretary of Labor Gene Scalia, and Administrator of the Health Resources and Services Administration Thomas Engels. Other members of the task force include HHS Secretary Alex Azar, NIAID Director Anthony Fauci, and NIH alum Deborah Birx (who was a fellow in Fauci’s lab 1983–1986).
May 15: NIH Director Francis Collins visits White House and stands in the Rose Garden at an event announcing “Operation Warp Speed,” which aims to deliver 300-million doses of a safe, effective vaccine for COVID-19 by January 2021. “Operation Warp Speed” will coordinate existing HHS-wide efforts, including the NIH’s Accelerating COVID-19 Therapeutic Interventions and Vaccines (ACTIV) partnership, NIH’s Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics (RADx) initiative, and work by the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority.
May 15: NIAID investigators announce non-peer-reviewed data indicating that an investigational vaccine (ChAdOx1 nCoV-19) protects monkeys against COVID-19 pneumonia.
May 18: In a Viewpoint essay published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, NIH Director Francis Collins and Johnson & Johnson Chief Scientific Officer Paul Stoffels describe the direction of the Accelerating COVID-19 Therapeutic Interventions and Vaccines (ACTIV), a public-private to address the COVID-19 pandemic.
May 19: NIH announces an NICHD-funded study to investigate pregnancy outcomes during the COVID-19 pandemic.
May 19: Surveillance PCR testing for COVID-19 begins for all inpatients admitted to the Clinical Center for at least one overnight stay, as well as for their approved rooming-in visitors. This mandatory testing is intended to detect asymptomatic or presymptomatic COVID-19 in order to prevent health-care personnel exposures and nosocomial spread.
May 21: Clinical Center begins performing weekly surveillance testing for COVID-19 infection in asymptomatic Clinical Center employees. The testing is encouraged but voluntary.
May: NIH sets up “NIH COVID-19 Candidate and Technologies Portal,” to collect data on diagnostic, therapeutic, vaccine, and other candidates or technologies with near-term potential for testing against COVID-19, as well as other information that could be leveraged in the response to COVID-19. The portal will assist in developing a complete inventory of potential candidates and technologies with different approaches to preventing or mitigating infection.
May 21: Third virtual NIH Town Hall: NIH leadership answers staff questions about the “NIH Framework to Return to Physical Workspaces”; topics covered include testing, timing of returns, trainee concerns, cleaning of facilities, safety concerns, and more. Staff is divided into Groups A, B, C, and D, with Group A returning first.
May 22: In an NIH-sponsored study, peer-reviewed data show remdesivir for COVID-19 improves time to recovery.
June 5: An NCI study identifies potential approach to treat severe respiratory distress in patients with COVID-19.
June 9: NIH-funded researchers find that small airways relative to lung size may explain why some nonsmokers get chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and some heavy smokers do not.
June 9: Deborah Birx, White House Coronavirus Task Force member, and Jared Kushner, senior advisor to the President of the United States, visit the NIH Vaccine Research Center. (Birx was a fellow in Anthony Fauci’s lab in the 1980s.)
June 10: An NIH-funded study to evaluate drugs prescribed to children with COVID-19 is launched.
June 11: NIH researchers identify key genomic features that could differentiate SARS-CoV-2 from other coronaviruses that cause less-severe disease.
June 15: NIH launches an analytics platform to harness nationwide COVID-19 patient data to speed treatments.
June 16: All of Us Research Program launches COVID-19 research initiatives in an effort to expand data collection that will shed light on the pandemic’s spread and impact.
June 19: Fourth virtual NIH Town Hall: focus on safety as staff in Group A start to return to their physical workspaces in some locations and provide answers to submitted questions.
June 20: NIH halts a clinical trial of hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19 because a study shows that treatment does no harm but provides no benefit.
June 20: Because of inadequate enrollment, NIAID stops enrollment in its clinical trial evaluating whether hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin can prevent hospitalization and death from COVID-19.
June 20: Facing similar challenges with enrollment, Novartis stopped its trial to evaluate the effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine in the treatment of COVID-19.
June 22: NIH employees identified as being in Group A returned to the physical workspace except at the Baltimore, Arizona, and North Carolina campuses. Everyone working on campus must wear face coverings, practice physical distancing, and wash their hands frequently.
June 23: NIH investigators and colleagues describe in mBio that when the immune system first responds to infectious agents such as viruses or bacteria, a natural brake on the response prevents overactivation.
June 23: More than 300 scientists and clinicians from NIH, other federal agencies, and academia publish a report in Immunity identifying steps to expand and improve antibody tests in the COVID-19 response.
June 25: NIH launches a pilot self-assessment reporting tool, using the AlertNIH notification system, for employees who are working on campus to report daily whether or not they have COVID-19 symptoms or have had recent exposure to someone known to have or suspected of having COVID-19. Anyone who responds “yes to “having symptoms” or “recent exposure” is instructed not to report to work, notify their supervisor, and fill out an Occupational Medical Service screening form.
June 25: Office of NIH History launches the “Behind the Mask” project to collect personal stories from all NIH staff regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, to serve as an historical document about how the NIH adapted at this critical time. Everyone is invited to participate.
June 26: All-staff email asks NIH staff to participate in a voluntary survey that assesses their willingness to be tested for COVID-19 on a regular basis once they return to the workplace.
June 30: NIAID Director Anthony Fauci testifies at a U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions hearing titled “COVID-19: Update on Progress Toward Safely Getting Back to Work and Back to School.” He says he is “very concerned” with the increase in COVID-19 cases in some parts of the country and urges the public to wear face coverings.
This page was last updated on Wednesday, March 23, 2022