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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 21 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Pfizer and Moderna boosters overwhelmingly prevent Omicron hospitalizations, CDC finds — Omicron pushes COVID deaths toward 2,000 per day — The pandemic-proof health care giant.
  2. Vaccines: The case for Operation Warp Speed 2.0 — Starbucks drops worker vaccine or test requirement after SCOTUS ruling — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America.
  3. Politics: Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" by Biden on anti-mask school policies.
  4. World: American Airlines flight to London forced to turn around over mask dispute — WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults.
  5. Variant tracker
Updated 1 hour ago - Economy & Business

Janet Yellen co-opts Reaganomics phrase for new Davos speech

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen at a speech this week. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

The U.S. needs to focus on increasing its productive potential, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told world leaders Friday, calling for what she terms "modern supply side economics."

Why it matters: She co-opted a phrase traditionally used by political conservatives to describe low-tax and deregulatory policies — and framed the Biden administration's initiatives as the best path forward to achieve greater national prosperity.

National Archives releases Trump White House records to Jan. 6 panel

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The National Archives on Thursday evening released records of former President Trump's White House to the House Jan. 6 Select Committee, the agency said.

Why it matters: The committee now has documents that Trump attempted to keep hidden, arguing that their release would undermine his executive privilege.