In early March 2020, an elderly man died in Placer County.

Health officials ruled the Rocklin resident’s death to be a result of COVID-19 — the disease caused by a novel coronavirus that, to this point, had appeared in a handful of cases up and down the West Coast.

The man, in his 70s with preexisting medical conditions, had been on a cruise ship that left from San Francisco, made four stops in Mexico, and returned in mid-February.

The death prompted Gov. Gavin Newsom to declare a state of emergency to allow the state to respond faster to health worker needs. Less than two weeks later, schools across the state would shutter and, shortly after that, California entered the first of several stay-at-home orders.

In the year since, the coronavirus pandemic has burned through California like a wildfire. What started with a small spark quickly became an inferno — killing tens of thousands, sickening millions and completely upending the entire state’s way of life.

At a July 2020 press conference, Newsom ordered businesses to close (again) after the number of hospitalizations in the state had nearly doubled following a June 12 decree that some businesses could reopen.

”The virus is not going away anytime soon,” Newsom said at the time.

This timeline tracks many of the significant inflection points of the past year — from debates about whether religious services should be allowed, to coronavirus outbreaks in prisons, to a now infamous dinner at the French Laundry — as California struggled to outmaneuver the coronavirus pandemic.

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Richard Procter

Richard Procter is the assistant editor at CalMatters, leading coverage of housing, education and technology. Prior to joining CalMatters, he was the editor-in-chief of SF Weekly and the special projects...