16 most notable COVID-19 developments of 2021: A timeline

Looking back at a year of ever-evolving "new normals," Becker's has compiled some of the biggest U.S. healthcare developments related to the pandemic in 2021.

Feb. 27: The FDA grants emergency use authorization for Johnson & Johnson's single-shot COVID-19 vaccine in people 18 years and older, making it the third COVID-19 vaccine to win emergency approval in the U.S.

April 7: The B.1.1.7 coronavirus variant, first identified in the U.K. and also known as alpha, becomes the most common strain circulating in the U.S., Rochelle Walensky, MD, director of the CDC, said April 7.

April 13: The CDC and FDA recommend the U.S. pause use of J&J's COVID-19 vaccine while reviewing six reports of rare and serious blood clots in people who received the shot. The FDA said six cases of blood clots called cerebral venous sinus thrombosis were seen in combination with low levels of blood platelets.  

April 19: COVID-19 vaccine eligibility opens to all adults in all 50 states.

April 26: The FDA and CDC lift the pause on J&J's COVID-19 vaccine, determining that the benefits of the shot outweigh potential risks. 

July 29: The Federation of State Medical Boards warns that physicians and other healthcare professionals could be at risk of losing their medical licenses if they spread COVID-19 vaccine misinformation on social media, online and in the media. 

Sept. 10: President Joe Biden mandates COVID-19 vaccines for federal workers and contractors.

Sept. 21: The delta variant is the dominant strain in the U.S. and officially becomes the dominant strain worldwide, officials from the World Health Organization said.

Nov. 4: CMS issues an emergency regulation that requires COVID-19 vaccination for all eligible staff at healthcare facilities participating in Medicare and Medicaid programs, a requirement that covers more than 17 million workers in hospitals and other healthcare settings nationwide.

Nov. 19: The FDA expands its emergency use authorization of Pfizer and Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine boosters to all adults Nov. 19, paving the way for people to receive a booster shot at least six months after completing their primary series. 

Nov. 29: A federal judge blocks the CMS mandate requiring COVID-19 vaccination for eligible staff at healthcare facilities participating in Medicare and Medicaid programs across 10 states.

Dec. 1: California officials confirm that a recent case of COVID-19 was caused by the coronavirus variant B.1.1.529 — also known as omicron — the first known case detected in the U.S. 

Dec. 16: ​​A panel of advisers to the CDC vote unanimously to recommend using Moderna and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines instead of Johnson & Johnson's vaccine, citing concerns about rare blood clots. 

Dec. 16: A federal appeals court effectively revives the CMS vaccination mandate for eligible staff in 26 states.

Dec. 23: The CDC updates isolation and quarantine guidance for healthcare workers. Asymptomatic workers with COVID-19 can return to work after seven days — compared to the previously recommended 10 — with a negative test. ​​National Nurses United, the largest U.S. union of registered nurses, condemns the new recommendation, which the CDC said was made to limit the effects of staff shortages caused by COVID-19 on patient care.

Dec. 28: The U.S. reports the highest number of new daily COVID-19 cases during the pandemic. The nation's seven-day case average was 267,305 on Dec. 28, according to data tracked by The New York Times. The case average previously peaked at 251,232 on Jan. 11.


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