CNN took it upon itself to declare the spread of coronavirus a pandemic a full two days before any global health organizations used that word.
The liberal news network announced Monday that it would begin using the terminology to describe the spread of the deadly virus known as COVID-19, the Washington Examiner reported. The World Health Organization (WHO) followed suit on Wednesday.
CNN declares pandemic
Authorities like the WHO had until recently resisted using terms like “pandemic” to avoid alarming the public, but CNN apparently did not share those concerns. In an online post, CNN’s chief medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta announced the change, saying the network was not making its decision “lightly” despite neither the WHO nor the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issuing similar warnings, adding:
So why now? The World Health Organization hasn’t called the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic. Nor has the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But many epidemiologists and public health experts argue the world is already experiencing a pandemic because of the novel coronavirus. There are now over 100,000 cases and over 3,000 deaths attributed to this new virus. In one day last week, the number of new cases outside of China, where the virus originated, was nearly 9 times higher than the number of new cases in China.
While there is no universally accepted definition of a pandemic, Gupta notes that three general criteria are: a virus that can cause illness or death, sustained person-to-person transmission of that virus, and evidence of spread throughout the world. Gupta cited numerous health experts who agreed that COVID-19 has already reached pandemic status.
While the virus certainly represents a public health crisis in its own right, President Donald Trump has continued to spar with Democrats over whether his administration’s response to the illness has been adequate. CNN’s audacious shift appeared to play into Trump’s complaints that the media establishment — beyond just tracking the virus and its spread — is doing whatever it can to stoke panic and damage him politically.
WHO sounds alarm
On Wednesday, the WHO officially declared COVID-19 an pandemic — the first such designation since the H1N1 swine flu in 2009. The WHO defines “pandemic” as the worldwide spread of a new disease to which most people are not immune. COVID-19 is the first coronavirus to receive the pandemic label. The SARS outbreak in 2002-2003, also a coronavirus, was not referred to such.
“We’re deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity, and by the alarming levels of inaction,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “We have rung the alarm bell loud and clear.”
There are now over 120,000 cases around the world and more than 4,000 deaths, mostly in China, where the virus is thought to have originated in a seafood market. While the outbreak is said to be at an ebb in China, it is spreading more rapidly in Western nations like Italy, which has ordered a nationwide lockdown, as well as in America.
Dramatic response effort underway
In the United States, the virus is gaining a foothold in state after state in what is starting to look like an eerie echo of the situation abroad. There are now at least 1,000 cases in America and at least 29 deaths, and the outbreak appears to be getting worse by the day. As cases continue to crop up in new states, areas where COVID-19 is concentrated, including New York, are taking stark measures to slow the spread.
As more schools close, workplaces send their employees home, and large public events are cancelled, the fear of the virus is being felt in daily life all around the world. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Joe Biden even canceled campaign rallies in Ohio on Tuesday, and CNN’s presidential debate on Sunday will not have an audience.
The Trump administration has been racing to manage a crisis that seems to be evolving faster than authorities can catch it. This week, the president began floating an economic stimulus package to help workers and suffering industries weather the fallout.
The WHO emphasized that it’s not too late to stop COVID-19 if countries take appropriate measures to respond. “We cannot say this loudly enough, or clearly enough, or often enough: All countries can still change the course of this pandemic,” Tedros said.