Stand up for facts and support PolitiFact.

Now is your chance to go on the record as supporting trusted, factual information by joining PolitiFact’s Truth Squad. Contributions or gifts to PolitiFact, which is part of the 501(c)(3) nonprofit Poynter Institute, are tax deductible.

More Info

I would like to contribute

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offices in Atlanta, Georgia. (James Gathany, CDC) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offices in Atlanta, Georgia. (James Gathany, CDC)

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offices in Atlanta, Georgia. (James Gathany, CDC)

Madison Czopek
By Madison Czopek September 10, 2020

No, the CDC hasn’t stopped calling COVID-19 a pandemic

If Your Time is short

• The World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic in March.

• There is no evidence the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention removed the term “pandemic” and replaced it with “outbreak” on its website homepage; “outbreak” has been used on the homepage for months.

• On many pages, the CDC website refers to “the COVID-19 pandemic.”

On March 11, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic. At the time, more than 118,000 cases of COVID-19 had been identified in over 110 countries worldwide, and the disease has continued to spread since.

Now, more than 27 million cases of COVID-19 have been reported globally, according to Johns Hopkins University’s Coronavirus Resource Center. But some social media users are still questioning the terms used to describe the disease.

"The CDC has removed the ‘Covid-19 Pandemic’ and replaced it with ‘Covid-19 Outbreak’ on their website," one Facebook post says. "It was never a pandemic."

The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

The post mischaracterizes the coronavirus updates on the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website homepage.

As early as Jan. 18, the CDC’s top homepage story was about the coronavirus. "CDC is closely monitoring an outbreak caused by a novel (new) coronavirus in Wuhan City, China," the story said, according to an archived version of the page.

The CDC was also using the term "outbreak" in February and March, archived pages show.

The CDC homepage still refers to the virus as an outbreak on its homepage.

However, the use of the term "outbreak" doesn’t mean COVID-19 is not a pandemic, as the CDC’s website explains.

The site defines outbreak as "a higher-­than-expected number of occurrences of disease in a specific location and time."

Featured Fact-check

"An outbreak is called an epidemic when there is a sudden increase in cases. As COVID-19 began spreading in Wuhan, China, it became an epidemic," the website explains. "Because the disease then spread across several countries and affected a large number of people, it was classified as a pandemic."

The CDC site uses the term "outbreak" to describe COVID-19 on its homepage, while "pandemic" is used elsewhere on the site.

The post also incorrectly asserts that COVID-19 was never a pandemic.

The World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic on March 11 and has not changed that designation. 

The CDC refers to COVID-19 as a pandemic on various website pages dedicated to providing coronavirus information, including the "Global COVID-19" page, the "Travel during the COVID-19 Pandemic" page and others.

The CDC’s page about influenza pandemics, which was last updated on May 12, plainly declares: "The United States is NOT currently experiencing an influenza pandemic. There is an ongoing pandemic with a new coronavirus."

Our ruling

A Facebook post claims, "The CDC has removed the ‘Covid-19 Pandemic’ and replaced it with ‘Covid-19 Outbreak’ on their website. It was never a pandemic."

The CDC website’s homepage currently refers to the "novel coronavirus outbreak," and has been using that term since January. But there is no evidence the CDC removed the word "pandemic" to replace it with "outbreak." 

The World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic in March, and the CDC website still refers to "the COVID-19 pandemic" on several of its pages.

We rate this claim Pants on Fire!

Our Sources

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Travel during the COVID-19 Pandemic," accessed Sept. 8, 2020

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Case Investigation and Contact Tracing : Part of a Multipronged Approach to Fight the COVID-19 Pandemic," April 29, 2020

TIME, "World Health Organization Declares COVID-19 a 'Pandemic.' Here's What That Means," March 11, 2020

World Health Organization, "What is a pandemic?" Feb. 24, 2010

CNN, "What is a pandemic?" Feb. 25, 2020

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Lesson 1: Introduction to Epidemiology," accessed Sept. 10, 2020

Johns Hopkins University & Medicine, "Coronavirus Resource Center," accessed Sept. 10, 2020

World Health Organization, "Archived: WHO Timeline - COVID-19," accessed Sept. 10, 2020

Twitter, "World Health Organization Media Briefing on COVID-19," March 11, 2020

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Global COVID-19," accessed Sept. 10, 2020

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Pandemic Influenza," accessed Sept. 10, 2020

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Identifying the source of the outbreak," accessed Sept. 10, 2020

Wayback Machine, Capture of https://www.cdc.gov/ from Jan. 18, 2020

Wayback Machine, Capture of https://www.cdc.gov/ from Feb. 1, 2020

Wayback Machine, Capture of https://www.cdc.gov/ from March 2, 2020

Wayback Machine, Capture of https://www.cdc.gov/ from Sept. 9, 2020

Browse the Truth-O-Meter

More by Madison Czopek

No, the CDC hasn’t stopped calling COVID-19 a pandemic

Support independent fact-checking.
Become a member!

In a world of wild talk and fake news, help us stand up for the facts.

Sign me up