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WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP via Getty Images

The World Health Organization will not yet call the coronavirus a pandemic, claiming that needs across affected countries are too varied and the classification would increase fear, director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a briefing Monday.

Context: WHO considers the classification of a global pandemic when epidemics occur in several countries at once. However, there's no clear threshold for the number of cases that meet the definition of an epidemic, with the CDC defining it as "an increase, often sudden, in the number of cases of a disease above what is normally expected in that population in that area."

The big picture: Iran, Italy and South Korea have experienced rapid person-to-person spread into the weekend, with case counts in the latter two countries increasing from tens to hundreds within days.

  • "Does this virus have pandemic potential? Absolutely, it has. Are we there yet? From our assessment, not yet," Tedros said.
  • Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, previously told Axios that we may be "at the brink" of a pandemic and that the U.S. is already gearing up public health protocols in case the situation escalates to that level.

What they're saying:

"For the moment, we are not witnessing the uncontained global spread of this virus, and we are not witnessing large-scale severe disease or death.
Does this virus have pandemic potential? Absolutely, it has. Are we there yet? From our assessment, not yet. So how should we describe the current situation? What we see are epidemics in different parts of the world, affecting countries in different ways and requiring a tailored response.
The sudden increase in new cases is certainly very concerning. I have spoken consistently about the need for facts, not fear. Using the word pandemic now does not fit the facts, but it may certainly cause fear. This is not the time to focus on what word we use. That will not prevent a single infection today, or save a single life today."
— Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Updated 35 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Senate action on stimulus bill continues as Dems reach deal on jobless aid

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Democratic leaders struck an agreement with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) on emergency unemployment insurance late Friday, clearing the way for Senate action on President Biden's $1.9 trillion stimulus package to resume after an hours-long delay.

The state of play: The Senate will now work through votes on a series of amendments that are expected to last overnight into early Saturday morning.

Capitol review panel recommends more police, mobile fencing

Photo: Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

A panel appointed by Congress to review security measures at the Capitol is recommending several changes, including mobile fencing and a bigger Capitol police force, to safeguard the area after a riotous mob breached the building on Jan. 6.

Why it matters: Law enforcement officials have warned there could be new plots to attack the area and target lawmakers, including during a speech President Biden is expected to give to a joint session of Congress.

Financial fallout from the Texas deep freeze

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Texas has thawed out after an Arctic freeze last month threw the state into a power crisis. But the financial turmoil from power grid shock is just starting to take shape.

Why it matters: In total, electricity companies are billions of dollars short on the post-storm payments they now owe to the state's grid operator. There's no clear path for how they will pay — something being watched closely across the country as extreme weather events become more common.