Coronavirus Pandemic 2020: The World Health Organization (WHO) officially declared the coronavirus outbreak to be a pandemic as of this morning. This comes after the number of coronavirus (COVID-19) cases passed 115,000 worldwide.
This is the first-of-its-kind pandemic caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19), according to WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
“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,” he added.
While there are no specific criteria for what is considered a pandemic, general guidelines include a virus that can cause illness or death, sustained person-to-person transmission of that virus, and evidence of its spread throughout the world. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines a pandemic as “an epidemic that has spread over several countries or continents, usually affecting a large number of people.”
UPDATED 10:45am: Combatting the Spread
The WHO stressed the importance of using contact tracing with COVID-19. Contact tracing is defined as the identification and follow-up of persons who may have come into contact with a person infected with COVID-19.
“Korea, Singapore and China sticking hard to that strategy has resulted in significant benefits,” Dr. Michael J Ryan, WHO Emergency Programming said. Ryan says countries should invest as much as possible in contact tracing — be comprehensive, prepare their systems, suppress epidemic and reduce cases per day that are wheeled through hospitals. Contract tracing, Ryan said, gives a “real chance to curb the numbers [of those infected with the coronavirus].”
Echoing this, Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove said by being aggressive in early cases, hospitals are given a chance to prepare. Kerkhove said certain countries are constantly learning from the virus and tailoring their approach to the epidemic.
This prompted a question from The Financial Times: What countries aren’t doing enough?
“You know who you are,” Ryan said, followed by a comment that the WHO doesn’t criticize member countries in public.
Ryan noted that some countries’ approach of diagnostic testing of algorithms – requiring people to be fully symptomatic – isn’t the way to go. He called COVID-19 a stress test for systems – everything from economics to hospitals – saying across society we’re witnessing a lack of resilience, pointing to deep distrust from governments reporting on the virus. Also at issue, “Hospital systems are set to deliver at 99% and don’t have space to deliver more.”
The organization also recommended amplifying efforts using civil servants and volunteers throughout the community to leverage and improve contact tracing. Kerkhove said each country should identify gaps and take action on those.
“It isn’t a one size fits all,” she said, noting that there is no commonality at this point in the virus’ spread, making asking questions critical. Ryan added that the WHO is using an artificial intelligence (AI) system that scans the globe to track new signals of the disease.
Coronavirus Pandemic 2020: Statistics
The virus has swept over at least 114 countries, and eight countries — including the U.S. — are each reporting more than 1,000 cases of coronavirus (COVID-19). Here are some more statistics:
- More than 113,000 cases have been recorded globally
- 80,000 cases confirmed in China
- About 4,000 deaths have been reported across the world
- 104 countries have now confirmed cases outside of China
- There have been nine confirmed cases in pregnant women.
“In the past two weeks, the number of cases of COVID-19 outside China has increased 13-fold, and the number of affected countries has tripled,” Ghebreyesus said.
Here in the United States, the CDC updates the count for US cases every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. As of publication, there are:
- More than 600 cases of coronavirus
- 36 US states report having victims
- 26 deaths reported in the US
Numbers are expected to rise as more people tested and symptoms begin to show. The US and state governments have had varying responses to the outbreak, especially as the outbreak goes further west. King County in Washington is jumping to containment and prevention measures after five residents at the Kirkland nursing home died of coronavirus.
As the alarm for the coronavirus increases, the WHO director said, “In the days and weeks ahead, we expect to see the number of cases, the number of deaths, and the number of affected countries climb even higher.”
Age and mortality rate of COVID-19