This paper seeks to understand whether a catastrophic and urgent event, such as the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic, accelerates or reverses trends in international collaboration, especially in and between China and the United States. A review of research articles produced in the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic shows that COVID-19 research had smaller teams and involved fewer nations than pre-COVID-19 coronavirus research. The United States and China were, and continue to be in the pandemic era, at the center of the global network in coronavirus related research, while developing countries are relatively absent from early research activities in the COVID-19 period. Not only are China and the United States at the center of the global network of coronavirus research, but they strengthen their bilateral research relationship during COVID-19, producing more than 4.9% of all global articles together, in contrast to 3.6% before the pandemic. In addition, in the COVID-19 period, joined by the United Kingdom, China and the United States continued their roles as the largest contributors to, and home to the main funders of, coronavirus related research. These findings suggest that the global COVID-19 pandemic shifted the geographic loci of coronavirus research, as well as the structure of scientific teams, narrowing team membership and favoring elite structures. These findings raise further questions over the decisions that scientists face in the formation of teams to maximize a speed, skill trade-off. Policy implications are discussed.