WHO declares COVID-19 a global pandemic, citing ‘alarming levels of inaction’

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The World Health Organization has declared the COVID-19 outbreak a global pandemic.

"Pandemic is not a word to use lightly or carelessly. 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," said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the WHO. "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."

The WHO said the number of cases outside China has increased 13-fold, and the number of countries affected has tripled. There are more than 118,000 cases in 114 countries. The worldwide death toll was 4,291 as of Wednesday, March 11.

"Thousands more are fighting for their lives in hospitals. In the days and weeks ahead, we expect to see the number of #COVID19 cases, the number of deaths, and the number of affected countries climb even higher," Ghebreyesus said on Twitter.

With cases in the U.S. now topping 1,000 and the number of deaths climbing to 31, lawmakers and health officials set up containment zones and sought to limit contact with those who might be infected.

“I can say we will see more cases and things will get worse than they are right now,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allegy and Infectious Diseases, said on Capitol Hill.

As for how much worse, Fauci said that would depend on the ability of the U.S. to curtail the influx of travelers carrying the disease and state and community efforts to contain the outbreak.

Gov. Jay Inslee is expected Wednesday to ban gatherings of more than 250 people in virtually the entire Seattle metro area. Western Washington accounts for about two-thirds of the nation’s coronavirus deaths, including at least 19 from the same suburban nursing home.

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