News & Politics

Coronavirus Was Just Labeled a 'Pandemic,' But Don't Panic. Here's Why.


The World Health Organization just announced that there are enough cases of COVID-19 (coronavirus) to declare a global pandemic.

The head of the World Health Organization (WHO), Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, says he’s never before heard of a coronavirus becoming a pandemic. This is a first. And he also added that it’s the first time a pandemic could be controlled.

At the same time the UN organization made the announcement in a series of tweets, it downplayed the coronavirus effects:

“Of the 118,000 #COVID19 cases reported globally in 114 countries, more than 90 percent of cases are in just four countries, and two of those – 🇨🇳 and 🇰🇷 [China and South Korea] – have significantly declining epidemics –

81 countries have not reported any #COVID19 cases, and 57 countries have reported 10 cases or less.

We cannot say this loudly enough, or clearly enough, or often enough: all countries can still change the course of this pandemic”

Dr. Tedros, as he calls himself, said they didn’t arrive at the designation lightly:

“Is not a word to use lightly or carelessly. If misused it can cause fear or convince people that the fight is over. … We’ve never seen a pandemic caused by a coronavirus. We have never seen a pandemic that can be controlled at the same time. We have rung the alarm bell loud and clear.”

This is what Science News describes as a pandemic:

According to the World Health Organization, a pandemic is the worldwide spread of a new disease. It’s most often used in reference to influenza, and generally connotes that an epidemic has spread to two or more continents with sustained, person-to-person transmission.

The severity of illness doesn’t fall under the WHO’s strict definition of a pandemic — just the disease’s spread — though the WHO may take the overall burden of the disease into account before declaring a pandemic. As the top global health agency, the WHO is relied upon to be the first to make the pandemic declaration.

Johns Hopkins University has put out a helpful series of infographics about COVID-19 on who’s at risk, what is happening with victims, and what it means to you: