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WHO regional director warns that the Americas stay ‘underneath the grip’ of coronavirus

Emergency Rescue Service (SAMU) nurse Belisa Marcelino checks the lungs of Maria Geralda da Silva, 84, who is experiencing breathing difficulty and others symptoms of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), as preparation is made to transfer the patient to a hospital amid the outbreak, in Sao Paulo, Brazil, July 2, 2020.

Amanda Perobelli | Reuters

The Pan American Health Organization’s top health official warned on Tuesday that the region’s expanding number of coronavirus cases show the Americas remain “under the grip of Covid-19.”

The Americas have been reporting more than 100,000 new cases of Covid-19 daily with the U.S. making up more than half of the case load, Carissa Etienne, director of PAHO and World Health Organization regional director for the Americas, said during a press briefing on Tuesday. 

PAHO has identified worrisome spikes in cases in countries that were once able to suppress their outbreaks, such as Colombia and Argentina, as well as an expansion in cases in Central America, she said.

Etienne pointed to the Dominican Republic as an increasingly troubling area. It’s reporting more cases than all other island nations in the Caribbean, she said. 

“These numbers make it clear that our region remains under the grip of Covid-19,” Etienne said. 

The U.S. surpassed 5 million cases of reported coronavirus cases on Sunday, the worst outbreak in the world with roughly a quarter of the world’s 20 million cases. Brazil has the second-most number of cases, reporting more than 3 million cases, according to Johns Hopkins University data. 

The U.S., Brazil and Mexico, combined, have reported more than 40% of the world’s more than 737,000 reported coronavirus deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. 

The pandemic is also threatening the region’s ability to suppress other communicable diseases, such as HIV, tuberculosis and hepatitis, Etienne said. She said more than 80% of the countries in Latin America and the Caribbean are reporting challenges in delivering tuberculosis treatments. 

“If patients skip doses or interrupt their treatment, a manageable condition can quickly turn into an active infection that threatens not only the patient but also their family and close acquaintances,” Etienne said. 

She called upon young people to continue adhering to suggested public health measures to prevent the virus from spreading, noting that they can still transmit the virus to people who may be more vulnerable. PAHO has reported more than 200,000 confirmed and probable cases of Covid-19 in adolescence, 10,000 hospitalizations and more than 200 deaths as of July, she said. 

“Young people are not immune to Covid-19. They, young people, do not have special powers against Covid-19,” she said. 

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