WHO Declares Coronavirus a Pandemic, Urges Global Action

Aislinn Antrim, Assistant Editor
Published Online: Wednesday, March 11th, 2020
Amid growing numbers of confirmed infections, the World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) a pandemic.1

As of Tuesday, WHO reported over 113,700 cases and over 4000 deaths globally.2 In the United States, the CDC has confirmed 938 cases and 29 deaths, as well as 771 patients under investigation. Currently, 38 states and Washington D.C. are reporting cases.3

Washington State currently has the most confirmed cases, with between 201 and 500 according to the CDC. California and New York each have between 101 and 200 cases.3

In a press conference, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom, PhD, said the sharp increase in cases in recent weeks contributed to the decision to declare a pandemic.1

“In the days ahead, we expect to see the number of COVID-19 cases, the number of deaths, and the number of affected countries climb even higher,” Adhanom said.1

Currently, 109 countries have confirmed cases.2 The global risk level according to the WHO is “very high.”2 Adhanom said that 81 countries have not reported any COVID-19 cases, and 57 countries have reported 10 cases or less.1

“WHO has been assessing this outbreak around the clock, and we are deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity, and by the alarming levels of inaction,” he said.1
Many health care professionals have expressed concerns about the availability of tests in the US. Although the CDC has been working to expedite the availability of diagnostics, Adhanom urged more action on the part of all global health agencies.

“If countries detect, test, treat, isolate, trace, and mobilize their people in the response, those with a handful of COVID-19 cases can prevent those cases becoming clusters, and those clusters becoming community transmission,” he said.1

He concluded that even for countries with community transmission and growing numbers of the virus, it is not too late to minimize the numbers of infected patients. Several countries have demonstrated that the virus can be successfully controlled, Adhanom said.1

“The challenge for many countries who are now dealing with large COVID-19 clusters or community transmission is not whether they can do the same—it’s whether they will,” Adhanom concluded.1

  1. Media briefing on COVID-19, World Health Organization. Live Stream; March 11, 2020. https://twitter.com/WHO/status/1237774421307228160. Accessed March 11, 2020.
  2. Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) Situation Report 50. World Health Organization; March 10, 2020. https://www.who.int/docs/default-source/coronaviruse/situation-reports/20200310-sitrep-50-covid-19.pdf?sfvrsn=55e904fb_2. Accessed March 11, 2020.
  3. Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Cases in the US. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Updated March 11, 2020. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/cases-in-us.html. Accessed March 11, 2020.

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