Year in Review: A look at the earliest reports of a ‘mysterious virus’

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The paper remained quiet on the matter until a full week later, Jan. 14, when a headline read: “Woman with mysterious virus quarantined.”

On Jan. 15, a story citing the World Health Organization warned that the new virus “could” move from person to person.

Some of the other stories now seem strange through the lens of the pandemic.

In the early days of 2020, the Calgary Herald was focused on other illnesses. A feature from National Post reporter Tom Blackwell looked at the fight to keep African Swine Fever out of the country.

The story notes that one case of African Swine Fever could hobble a $4-billion-a-year export industry.

It seems like a distant memory, but in January, there was a different “rona” being monitored, as shown in this story from Jan. 8 with a now-jarring headline: “‘Rona Watch’: Conservative leadership race preoccupied by one question — is Ambrose in or out?

The first Alberta-centric story to come from one of our local reporters was filed by Stephanie Babych on Jan. 20: “Alberta doctors warned to watch for coronavirus, despite a low concern for Calgary.”

“There is little concern that a new coronavirus that’s spreading internationally will reach Alberta but the province still isn’t taking chances,” reads the story’s lede.

Among other things, her piece looked at the lack of screening measures at the Calgary International Airport at that time, due to a lack of direct flights to China.

The next local story came from Jason Herring on Jan. 31: “Alberta insists coronavirus risk is low, but people are taking precautions.”

Since Alberta confirmed its first case of COVID-19 on March 5, more than 98,000 cases have been recorded and more than 1,000 deaths have been attributed to the virus.

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