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Photo: BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP via Getty Images

The World Health Organization finally declared COVID-19 to be a pandemic on Wednesday.

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-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus."

The other side: At a time like this, the WHO has to also be worried about unreasonable lack of fear. Fear, after all, is a very useful social distancing mechanism.

Between the lines: The WHO's announcement on Twitter was hardly sober and contained. It has two siren emoji, abundant ALL CAPS and a glaring red-on-blue color scheme.

The message: Up until now, we've been worried that you might panic. Now, we're worried that you're not panicking enough.

My thought bubble: The WHO has an ally in the stock market. The plunge in stock prices is helping many Americans understand the gravity of the current situation.

Go deeper

USAID chief tests positive for coronavirus

An Air Force cargo jet delivers USAID supplies to Russia earlier this year. Photo: Mikhail Metzel/TASS via Getty Images

The acting administrator of the United States Agency for International Development informed senior staff Wednesday he has tested positive for coronavirus, two sources familiar with the call tell Axios.

Why it matters: John Barsa, who staffers say rarely wears a mask in their office, is the latest in a series of senior administration officials to contract the virus. His positive diagnosis comes amid broader turmoil at the agency following the election.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
6 hours ago - Health

COVID-19 shows a bright future for vaccines

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Promising results from COVID-19 vaccine trials offer hope not just that the pandemic could be ended sooner than expected, but that medicine itself may have a powerful new weapon.

Why it matters: Vaccines are, in the words of one expert, "the single most life-saving innovation ever," but progress had slowed in recent years. New gene-based technology that sped the arrival of the COVID vaccine will boost the overall field, and could even extend to mass killers like cancer.

7 hours ago - Health

Beware a Thanksgiving mirage

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Don't be surprised if COVID metrics plunge over the next few days, only to spike next week.

Why it matters: The COVID Tracking Project warns of a "double-weekend pattern" on Thanksgiving — where the usual weekend backlog of data is tacked on to a holiday.