This commentary concludes that COVID-19 was not declared a pandemic early enough, which may have affected effective responses.
Pandemics include the following characteristics: a new virus that has not previously circulated in humans, geographically widespread, clear person-to-person spread, and explosive outbreaks with relatively high case-fatality rate. It was clearly the case that COVID-19 met all criteria for some time before the World Health Organization declared the epidemic to be a pandemic. By waiting to communicate about the pandemic, individuals perceived leaders to have lost control and engaged in irrational panic responses. When communicated clearly and early, the seriousness of the situation and the extreme measures needed to address the crisis are more clear and accepted. To avoid confusion, it is recommended that a multi-disciplinary group of epidemiologists, infectious disease specialists, risk communicators, and health administrators convene to create clear, expanded definitions of the terms outbreak, epidemic, and pandemic. Communicating these terms clearly will help provide international coordination and collaboration.