Mar 11, 2020 - Health

WHO declares coronavirus a pandemic

Photo: Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

The World Health Organization announced Wednesday that it had classified the coronavirus outbreak as a pandemic.

What they're saying: "Pandemic is not a word to use lightly or carelessly. It is a word that, if misused, can cause unreasonable fear, or unjustified acceptance that the fight is over, leading to unnecessary suffering and death," said WHO director Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

  • Ghebreyesus added that the declaration "does not change WHO’s assessment of the threat posed by this coronavirus. It doesn’t change what WHO is doing, and it doesn’t change what countries should do."
  • He also noted that 114 countries have now reported cases — with 118,000 worldwide, though most are clustered in China, Italy, Iran and South Korea.

The big picture: The organization defines a pandemic as a situation where a "virus emerges and spreads around the world, and most people do not have immunity."

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Why it matters: Unlike those tragedies, Adams emphasized that the direct effects of the coronavirus will not be "localized" and that it will be happening "all over the country." But he also stressed that the public has the "power to change the trajectory of this epidemic" by following social distancing and other public health guidelines.

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Why it matters: New York City has become an epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, facing mass quarantines and stay-at-home orders. Cuomo said Saturday that New York reported 630 new deaths in 24 hours — an "all-time increase" that beat the previous day's record of 562 deaths.