WHO declares COVID-19 disease to be a pandemic

The coronavirus crisis continues to unfold across the globe as the World Health Organization uses the word for the first time.
Image: Slovakia
A worker wearing protective clothes disinfects the inside of a public bus in Bratislava, Slovakia, on Wednesday.Vladimir Simicek / AFP - Getty Images

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For the first time, the World Health Organization called the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, a pandemic. Meanwhile, the United States now has more than 1,000 people infected with the coronavirus — but testing in the country is still ramping up, meaning that number could continue to climb.

WHO defines a pandemic as the worldwide spread of a new disease for which most people do not have immunity.

On Wednesday, the governor of New York questioned the number of people who have been tested for the virus in the U.S.

“When they do the retrospective on this one, they are going to say, 'Why did it take the Unites States so long to bring up the testing capacity?'” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on "TODAY." On Tuesday, Cuomo announced that he was implementing a "containment area" around a one-mile radius in the city of New Rochelle, home to one of the largest clusters of coronavirus cases in the country.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have said that more than 8,500 specimens have been tested for the coronavirus across the U.S. Because multiple specimens are required from each individual, the number of actual patients who have been tested is likely far lower.

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Fauci says of outbreak: 'Bottom line, it's going to get worse'

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, warned Wednesday that the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. will get worse. 

Fauci's comment came at a hearing before the House Oversight and Reform Committee when he was asked whether the worst is yet to come. 

"Yes, it is," Fauci told lawmakers at the hearing, which featured testimony from other federal health officials involved in combatting the outbreak. 

Fauci explained that when there's enough community spread in an outbreak — meaning the proliferation of an illness whose source of infection is unknown — "then it becomes a situation where you're not going to be able to effectively and efficiently contain it."

"Although we are containing it in some respects, we keep getting people coming in from the country that are travel-related," he said. "We've seen that in many of the states that are now involved. And when you get community spread, it makes the challenge much greater."

"So I can say we will see more cases, and things will get worse than they are right now," Fauci said. "How much worse we'll get will depend on our ability to do two things: to contain the influx of people who are infected coming from the outside, and the ability to contain and mitigate within our own country. Bottom line, it's going to get worse."

The scene in Codogno

Residents wait to do their shopping outside a supermarket in Codogno, southeast of Milan, on Wednesday, a day after Italy imposed unprecedented national restrictions on its 60 million people. Italy's coronavirus crisis began in Codogno on Feb. 21 when the first patient tested positive at a Codogno hospital.Miguel Medina / AFP - Getty Images

Coronavirus precautions impact on Italy’s ‘dolce vita’

State media says Iran's first vice president has coronavirus as cases reach 9,000

Iran's first vice president, second in command to President Hassan Rouhani, has been diagnosed with coronavirus, Iran's state news agency reported Wednesday.

Fars news agency said Eshaq Jahangiri has tested positive. He was absent this morning from a cabinet meeting.

Meanwhile, Iran's health ministry reported 958 new cases, bringing the total to 9,000 since the outbreak began last month. 

A total of 354 people have died from the virus, with 63 new deaths compared to the day before.

Iran, along with South Korea and Italy, is one of the three global hot spots of the coronavirus epidemic.

Coronavirus conference canceled due to coronavirus

Coronavirus containment steps are disrupting the ability of leaders to come together in person to grapple with the virus itself.

The Council on Foreign Relations, a Washington, D.C.-based foreign policy think tank, announced it canceled a meeting scheduled for Friday in New York called "Doing Business under Coronavirus," because of caution surrounding the coronavirus epidemic.

The group has canceled all external events through April, a spokesperson told NBC News.

"It's mostly for health concerns in light of the coronavirus outbreak. We would like everybody to take precautions," the spokesperson said.

Seoul subway trains disinfected as coronavirus cases increase in South Korea

London enhances 'cleaning regime' amid coronavirus outbreak

London's public transport is getting a deep clean amid the coronavirus outbreak, the mayor said Wednesday.

In a video message on Twitter, Sadiq Khan said they have stepped up the cleaning regime on the public transit network to use an enhanced anti-viral fluid common in hospitals. 

All buses will now have regularly touched areas, such as poles and doors, carefully wiped down with the strong disinfectant every day. 

Key interchanges will also be cleaned more regularly than usual, including during the day.

"I want to reassure Londoners and visitors that the advice from experts is to continue with our daily lives as normal, including using public transport," Khan said. 

More than 370 cases of coronavirus and six deaths have been reported in the U.K. 

Coronavirus could be worst economic disaster since financial crisis, warns head of Europe's central bank

Europe could be facing an economic fallout on the same scale as the financial crisis in 2008, warned Christine Lagarde, head of the European Central Bank.

Lagarde made the comments Tuesday in a call with European Union leaders, saying that unless they worked together to address the epidemic, Europe would see "a scenario that will remind many of us of the 2008 Great Financial Crisis."

Italy, one of the financial centers of Europe, is grappling with 10,000 cases of the coronavirus, with the entire country shut down as attempts continue to contain its spread. Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel warned Wednesday that up to 70 percent of that country could eventually be infected.

Dow tumbles almost 800 points as questions mount regarding Trump's stimulus package

Wall Street plunged on Wednesday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average sinking by almost 800 points after the opening bell, as fears mounted about the possibility — and timing — of an economic aid package from the White House in the face of the growing coronavirus epidemic.

All three major averages were down by around 3 percent in morning trading on Wednesday.

Market participants remain concerned about a global economic slowdown and potential recession if the administration does not step in to shore up the U.S. economy, especially small businesses.

While Trump has floated ideas such as a permanent payroll tax cut, there is concern that such efforts may not be legislated in time to have an effect.

“We need to see meaningful support for economic activity and credit backstops especially for small businesses, not a targeted approach executed only by the executive branch,” wrote Joe Kalish, chief global macro strategist at Ned Davis Research, in a note to investors. “We will likely need congressional involvement."

Doctor tweets his experience of having Coronavirus

A doctor in Spain is tweeting daily updates of life under quarantine with coronavirus, even sharing ultrasounds of his lungs. 

Yale Tung Chen, 35, said over the phone that he contracted coronavirus while treating patients in his work as an emergency physician at Hospital Universitario La Paz in Madrid. 

He was diagnosed on Sunday and has been in quarantine in his home in Madrid ever since. 

 

Chen said he wanted his experience to be educational, but wasn't expecting the compassionate response he received from social media users. “It meant the whole world to me to receive support from people all around the world,” he said.