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An exhibition center converted into a hospital for patients displaying mild symptoms of the novel coronavirus in Wuhan, in China's central Hubei province, on Feb. 5. Photo: STR/AFP via Getty Images

China's Communist Party replaced two top health officials in Hubei province, the epicenter of the novel coronavirus outbreak, state media reports, as infection rates soared following a diagnosis criteria revision Thursday.

Why it matters: Jiang Chaoliang and Ma Guoqiang were removed from their posts following "public outrage over authorities' handling of the crisis," per the Washington Post.

  • Hours later, the National Health Commission confirmed that in a single day, 254 people had died of COVID-19 and there were 15,152 new cases nationally, the vast majority in Hubei — taking the country's death toll to 1,367 and total infections to 59,804.

The big picture: The jump in coronavirus cases in the province came after the commission added clinical diagnosis to the case diagnosis classification guidelines in the confirmed total, according to a statement by the local health authority.

  • "Chinese officials previously only counted cases confirmed by nucleic acid tests, which critics said were faulty and greatly underestimated the true magnitude of the epidemic," the Washington Post notes.
  • Ying Yong has been appointed to the ousted Jiang 's former position as secretary of the Hubei Provincial Committee of the Communist Party of China and Wang Zhonglin has replaced Ma as member of the Standing Committee of the Hubei Provincial Committee of the CPC, per the state-run Xinhua.

For the record: Beijing revising the way it defines cases is "normal during the course of an outbreak," said Sylvie Briand, director of global infection hazard preparedness at the WHO, on Wednesday.

  • When a situation is just beginning, doctors need to have super sensitive case definitions, she said, but it's more important to broaden the approach once the numbers rise.
  • Michael Ryan, executive director of WHO 's health emergencies program, said the shift "is likely to bring a wider net" that will include "all lab-confirmed cases regardless of symptoms."

Go deeper:

Editor's note: This article has been updated with details from the National Health Commission news conference.

Go deeper

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Fauci: Omicron variant will "inevitably" be found in U.S.

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Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, cautioned on Sunday that the COVID-19 Omicron variant will "inevitably" be found in the United States.

Driving the news: Fauci, Biden's chief medical adviser, told ABC's George Stephanopoulos on "This Week" that U.S. officials will meet with colleagues from South Africa later on Sunday to try to determine the severity of the cases, as countries scramble to learn more about the variant.

Updated 6 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Dems fear supply-chain blame

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

As supply-chain kinks drive up prices and disrupt holiday shopping, Democrats are scrambling to show action and deflect blame.

Why it matters: With their party controlling both the White House and Capitol, vulnerable Democrats worry supply-chain snafus will hurt them in next year's midterms.

6 hours ago - World

Scoop: Germany urges Congress not to sanction Putin’s pipeline

Photo: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

The German government has urged members of Congress not to sanction the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, arguing that doing so will "weaken" U.S. credibility and "ultimately damage transatlantic unity," according to documents obtained by Axios.

Why it matters: At a time when roughly 100,000 Russian troops are massing at its border, Ukraine views Nord Stream 2 as an existential threat to its security. The pipeline would circumvent Ukrainian transit infrastructure and deliver Russian gas directly to Germany, eliminating one of the last deterrents Ukraine has against an invasion.