'The worst is yet to come': Coronavirus pandemic 'not even close to being over,' WHO official warns

This week marks six months since the World Health Organization was first notified of the coronavirus pandemic, and officials with the organization have given a stark warning that COVID-19 is “not even close to being over.”

WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Monday during a media briefing that people should reflect on the progress made and lessons learned in the crisis. But Ghebreyesus also warned that “the worst is yet to come” and urged countries to “recommit ourselves to doing everything we can to save lives.”

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Ghebreyesus’ message comes as the world surpassed two grim coronavirus milestones on Sunday: 500,000 confirmed deaths and 10 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 globally. The world also hit another high mark for daily new infections as governments that attempted hasty reopenings continued to backpedal.

In the U.S., Texas Gov. Greg Abbott warned that COVID-19 "has taken a very swift and very dangerous turn in Texas over just the past few weeks.” California Gov. Gavin Newsom rolled back reopenings of bars in seven counties, including Los Angeles. He ordered them to close immediately and urged eight other counties to issue local health orders mandating the same.

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The WHO said June 30 will be six months since it received the first reports of “a cluster of cases of pneumonia of unknown cause in China.”

“Six months ago, none of us could have imagined how our world – and our lives – would be thrown into turmoil by this new virus,” Ghebreyesus said. “The pandemic has brought out the best and the worst of humanity.”


World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus speaks during a press conference after a meeting about the COVID-19 outbreak at the World Health Organization headquarters in Geneva on June 25, 2020. (Photo by FABRICE COFFRINI/AF

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Ghebreyesus spoke of heartwarming acts of kindness and resilience, but noted “concerning signs of stigma, misinformation and the politicization of the pandemic.”

The decision to wear masks has become a topic of fierce debate in the U.S., which still has far and away the most total cases at more than 2.5 million. 

President Donald Trump has refused to abide by public health guidelines, declining to publicly wear a mask and ridiculing presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden for using one. Vice President Mike Pence has also regularly flouted mask guidelines, including on a high-profile visit to the Mayo Clinic in April, though he was informed by staff prior to his arrival of the medical facility’s mask rules.

In a speech Monday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell became the highest-ranking Republican in Congress to encourage Americans to wear a facial mask, which experts say is a simple and effective way to help protect the spread of the virus.

“We must have no stigma — none — about wearing masks when we leave our homes,” McConnell said in the Senate.

This story was reported from Cincinnati. The Associated Press contributed.