"Pandemic is not a word to use lightly or carelessly," one World Health Organization leader said

By Benjamin VanHoose
March 11, 2020 01:35 PM
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The World Health Organization has declared the coronavirus outbreak a global pandemic.

Officials made the announcement on Wednesday, urging world leaders and citizens to take action to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

“Pandemic is not a word to use lightly or carelessly,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director general, at a press conference in Geneva. “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.”

“There’s been so much attention on one word,” he said. “Let me give you some other words that matter much more, and that are much more actionable: Prevention. Preparedness. Public health. Political leadership. And most of all, people.

According to its official website, WHO defines a pandemic as “the worldwide spread of a new disease.” (Get even more information about pandemics, what defines them and why the coronavirus is one here.)

“Describing the situation as a pandemic does not change WHO’s assessment of the threat posed by this coronavirus,” said Ghebreyesus. “It doesn’t change what WHO is doing, and it doesn’t change what countries should do.”

He added: “We’re in this together, to do the right things with calm and protect the citizens of the world. It’s doable.”

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According to its official website, WHO defines a pandemic as “the worldwide spread of a new disease.”

Ghebreyesus explained that there hasn’t been a pandemic “sparked” by a coronavirus in the past.

“Eighty-one countries have not reported any COVID-19 cases, and 57 countries have reported 10 cases or less,” he said. “We cannot say this loudly enough, or clearly enough, or often enough: All countries can still change the course of this pandemic.”

Added Ghebreyesus: “This is not just a public health crisis, it is a crisis that will touch every sector — so every sector and every individual must be involved in the fight.”

Worldwide, there are now 121,545 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 4,373 deaths.

There are now at least 1,015 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, and 31 people have died, mostly in Washington state. The majority of U.S. cases are in Washington state, California and New York, and all three have declared a state of emergency to redirect funding.