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Coronavirus now a global pandemic, World Health Organization says

Published Mar 11th, 2020 2:17PM EDT
coronavirus pandemic

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  • Coronavirus COVID-19 is a global pandemic, the World Health Organization declared today. 
  • The group initially refused to use the label of “pandemic,” but said the severity of the outbreak now meets the loosely-defined criteria. 
  • The United States has taken few measures to curb the spread of the disease. 
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The World Health Organization just declared the coronavirus outbreak COVID-19 has reached the level of a global pandemic. After repeatedly announcing that it would hold off on making that declaration until it was absolutely certain of the severity of the outbreak and its spread, the group made the call today and announced it at a press conference from Geneva, Switzerland.

The declaration comes as confirmed cases of coronavirus infection continue to grow, passing 115,000. Over 1,000 of those cases are in the United States, but these figures are likely much lower than the true number of infected individuals, meaning the outbreak is far more widespread than it appears on a map.

Simply declaring the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic doesn’t necessarily mean countries will handle the situation any differently than they already are. The US government has come under increased scrutiny over its inaction, even as new cases continue to mount and stores begin to run out of supplies like sanitizing cleaning agents, toilet paper, and other long-term survival goods.

“Describing the situation as a pandemic 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,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters. He added that he felt many countries weren’t taking the situation seriously enough and that WHO is “deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity, and by the alarming levels of inaction.”

The World Health Organization still believes that countries can curb the spread and ultimately put a lid on this fast-moving outbreak, but actions have to be taken. Quarantine procedures and mandatory lockdowns in some areas have already been initiated in places like China and Italy, but many countries, including the United States, are doing very little to prevent the spread of the virus on a larger scale.

The death toll of the COVID-19 pandemic now sits at over 4,200. The CDC just recently revealed that the number of deaths will continue to increase not just because of new deaths, but because it continues to find confirmed infections posthumously, meaning that people died from COVID-19 before doctors knew to check them for it.

There’s a fine line between remaining calm and not doing enough. There are many around the globe who believe the coronavirus is being overblown or overreported, and that it’s not as severe as it seems. There’s no need to panic, but precautions must be taken now before there IS a reason to panic. WHO’s pandemic declaration will hopefully jumpstart some of those actions.