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WHO warns coronavirus still hasn't 'reached its peak' in Americas as global cases near milestone

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Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO) Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus speaks during a news conference on the situation of the coronavirus (COVID-2019), in Geneva, Switzerland.

Denis Balibouse | Reuters

Coronavirus outbreaks in the Americas haven’t reached their peak yet as the number of Covid-19 cases globally near 10 million, the World Health Organization warned Wednesday.

Many countries in the Americas, which include North, South and Central America, are still suffering sustained community transmission, Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO’s emergencies program, said during a press conference at the agency’s Geneva headquarters. “And as such, the journey for them is, unfortunately, the pandemic for many countries in the Americas has not peaked.”

The number of new cases globally jumped by 133,326 on Tuesday, according to data from the WHO. More than a third of those cases came from Mexico, Chile, Peru, Brazil and the United States, which reported a combined total of 58,583 new cases in a single day, according to the WHO.

The U.S. remains the worst-hit country in the world with more than 2.3 million cases and at least 121,279 deaths as of Wednesday as some states continue to pursue reopening, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. As of Tuesday, the seven-day average of daily new Covid-19 cases in the U.S. increased by more than 32% compared to one week ago, according to a CNBC analysis of Hopkins data. Cases are growing by 5% or more in 30 states across the country, including Arizona, Texas, Montana and Idaho.

On Tuesday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, expressed concern as parts of the U.S. are beginning to see a “disturbing surge” in coronavirus infections.

While New York state is seeing a decline in Covid-19 cases, other states are seeing a rise in cases that “reflect an increase in community spread,” Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said during a hearing before the House Energy and Commerce Committee. “That’s something I’m really quite concerned about.” 

U.S. cases had risen to about an average of 30,000 infections per day at the peak of the outbreak before plateauing to around 20,000 infections per day, Fauci said. “Now we’re going up [again]. A couple of days ago, there were 30,000 new infections.”

“That’s very troublesome to me,” he said.

Public health specialists fear that a slow burn of infection throughout the summer could lead to a massive resurgence of the virus this fall as it sickens people simultaneously with the seasonal flu. The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation projects there will be more than 200,000 Covid-19-related deaths in the United States by October.

Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, urged Americans this week to get flu vaccinations as both viruses threaten to place a “tremendous burden” on U.S. hospitals.

Meanwhile, the WHO is urging world leaders to be “vigilant” on social distancing measures, asking countries not to speed through reopening businesses.

Ryan added Wednesday that parts of the Americas have not reached a low enough level of transmission “with which we can achieve a successful exit of successful and social distancing measures.”

“I would characterize the situation in the Americas in general and in Central and Latin America as still evolving,” he said. It will “likely result in a sustained number of cases and continued deaths in the coming weeks.”

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