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Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

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Photo: Joanne K. Watson/Merriam-Webster via Getty Images

Merriam-Webster announced Monday that "pandemic" is its word of the year.

The big picture: Peter Sokolowski, editor at large for Merriam-Webster, told AP that after the World Health Organization declared on March 11 the COVID-19 outbreak to be a pandemic, searches for the word on Merriam-Webster.com were 115,806% higher than for the same period in 2019.

For the record: Runners up for word of the year based on lookup surges related to the pandemic were "coronavirus," "quarantine" and "asymptomatic," per AP.

  • Non-virus considerations that saw spikes included "defund," in relation to the "defund the police" campaign, "antebellum" after country group Lady A dropped the word from their name because of its association with pre-Civil War slavery and "mamba," following the January death of NBA legend Kobe Bryant — who was known as the "Black Mamba."

Worth noting: The WHO declared on Feb. 11 "a new name" for the coronavirus: "COVID-19." Merriam-Webster included the word plus information related to it on its site 34 days later.

  • "That's the shortest period of time we’ve ever seen a word go from coinage to entry," Sokolowski told AP.

Flashback: Merriam-Webster's 2019 word of the year: "They"

Editor's note: This article has been updated with details of words that were runners up and on the COVID-19 entry.

Go deeper

German elections: After close result, jockeying to replace Merkel begins

Data: Preliminary results from German Federal Returning Officer; Chart: Sara Wise/Axios

Germany’s Social Democrats (SPD) pulled off a come-from-behind victory in Sunday’s elections, 10 seats ahead of the Christian Democrats (CDU), which failed to finish top for the first time in 16 years.

State of play: SPD leader Olaf Scholz has said he’ll seek to form a government, but so too has Armin Laschet, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s successor as CDU leader.

2 hours ago - Health

Biden gets COVID-19 booster shot on live television

President Biden received a Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine booster shot on live television on Monday, while also urging Americans to get vaccinated.

Driving the news: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week recommended Pfizer booster shots for millions of people, including those 65 years and older and individuals at high-risk of severe COVID-19.

John Hinckley, who shot Reagan, wins unconditional release

John Hinckley Jr. sitting on the back seat of a car in 1981. Photo: Bettmann/Getty Images

A federal judge on Monday approved the unconditional release of John Hinckley Jr., who tried to assassinate former President Reagan in 1981.

State of play: U.S. District Court Judge Paul L. Friedman in Washington ruled that Hinckley can be freed from all court supervision in 2022 if he remains mentally stable and continues to follow rules that were imposed on him after he was released from a Washington mental health facility in 2016 to live in Virginia, AP reports.

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