Less than three months after the world first learned of a new coronavirus causing illnesses and deaths in a section of China, the virus has upended lives around the globe including Knox County.

The first case of the virus is believed to have been detected in mid-November in China. But the world would not learn about that until early January when cases had skyrocketed in the Wuhan province of China and spread to other parts of that country.

The first case of COVID-19 in the U.S. was reported Jan. 20 in Washington state.

Locally, the virus was not a significant topic of conversation until near the end of January. A reader sent in a letter to the editor to The Courier-Gazette Jan. 29 voicing concern about "the climate crisis, the unprecedented political strife and the global outbreak of a scary new virus."

By Feb. 27, the Maine Department of Education sent out an advisory to schools on how to keep schools clean and encouraged districts to stock up on cleaning supplies and plan for closures in the event of a pandemic.

The Regional School Unit 13 Board in Rockland held a meeting that evening and discussed the matter before approving one student trip to Quebec and another to Boston while raising the possibility that the trips could be canceled if the spread of the virus worsened.

"This is a situation I and other area superintendents are watching closely, and we are staying as informed as possible. As with any flu outbreak, including influenza, good hygiene, (hand washing), covering coughs and sneezes, cleaning and disinfecting surfaces,​ are the best preventative remedies," Superintendent John McDonald said at that time.

On March 3, Camden-Rockport Middle School canceled an eighth-grade trip to Japan and the Five-Town School District sent out a pandemic plan to parents.

"The school evaluated a number of factors in making this difficult decision. Those factors included the comfort of traveling families, Japanese hosts and minimizing the risk of any potential exposure to coronavirus, as well as its responsibility to its local community," the district stated in its decision to cancel the trip.

During the first week of March, some store shelves began being emptied of items such as toilet paper. On March 11, Hannaford issued a statement that it was following CDC guidelines on keeping stores clean and safe.

Sports leagues – internationally, nationally, and local – postponed seasons beginning the second week of March.

The first confirmed case of COVID-19 in Maine was reported March 12 – an Androscoggin County woman in her 50s. Gov. Janet Mills said she was not yet calling for schools to close.

The second confirmed case in Maine was reported March 13 and the third March 14.

School superintendents in the Midcoast met March 15 and decided to close schools for varied periods – most through at least the April vacation that runs through April 26.

Despite being closed, schools continue to connect with students online and by phone to continue their education. Districts are also continuing to provide meals to students as well as any person under 18 years old.

Gov. Mills declared a civil state of emergency March 15, recommending that all planned gatherings of 50 or more people be canceled.

Municipalities began canceling physical meetings over the same weekend. Rockland issued an emergency order following an emergency morning meeting March 17. That banned public gatherings of more than 10 people and called for the closure of restaurants and bars although take-out and delivery were allowed.

Government boards are meeting online which allows the public to view if they have internet or cable television.

The North Haven Select Board voted March 15 to prohibit non-residents from coming to the island, saying the community was not equipped to handle an influx of people who could overwhelm the healthcare system. The board rescinded that order two days later when the state advised them the action was illegal.

March 24, Mills issued an order mandating all non-essential businesses and operations in Maine close their physical locations that allow customer, vendor or other in-person contact.

Maine Department of Labor reported March 26 that 21,459 initial unemployment claims were filed for the week ending March 21 throughout the state. The following week another 23,800 initial claims were filed. That compared to 634 initial claims the previous week before mandatory shutdowns began in the state.

The first-time claims during the past two weeks exceeded by far the numbers filed during the depth of the Great Recession. In one week during 2009, for example, initial claims peaked at 5,634 for a single week.

Towns began issuing advisories to seasonal residents and visitor to self-quarantine for 14 days if they come to the region. This followed reports of an influx of seasonal visitors arriving to flee their metropolitan communities that have COVID-19 outbreaks.

The Knox County Sheriff's Office investigated a case March 27 of people on Vinalhaven cutting down a tree to block a road in an effort to quarantine people believed to have come to the island from out-of-state. That case currently remains under investigation.

Islanders also were coming together to provide services to people in need during the threat from the pandemic, said the town of Vinalhaven in a statement.

March 31, Gov. Mills issued a statewide stay-at-home order, restricting movement and activities as health officials attempt to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Beginning at 12:01 a.m., April 2, Maine residents will be prohibited from traveling outside of their homes for all but “essential personal activities” such as grocery shopping, obtaining medical care or medication, providing care to another person or livestock, or commuting to and from work for an essential job.

The governor ordered lodging places to close to all but essential workers starting April 5. Anyone coming into the state must self quarantine for 14 days.

The order will remain in place until April 30.

The move is hoped to "flatten the curve" of the outbreak so as to not overwhelm the health care system in the state.

People will be allowed to exercise outside if they keep a 6-foot distance from other people.

The governor said police officers can enforce the order and violations are a Class E criminal offense.

"These are not normal times. This does not feel right having to do this," said Gov. Mills. She urged people to be patient and kind to their neighbors.

On April 7, 26 days after the first case of COVID-19 was diagnosed in a Maine resident, the number of confirmed cases reached 499. Ten of those people have died while 188 have recovered. Nine Knox County residents have been confirmed with the new virus as of April 7 with three recovered.