2021-09-16 08:53:07 North and Central America Are Driving a Hemispheric Coronavirus Surge
North and Central America Are Driving a Hemispheric Coronavirus Surge
While the spread of new coronavirus cases is steady or slowing in much of the world, it is accelerating in the Western Hemisphere, where new case reports increased by 20% in the past week, according to the World Health Organization on Wednesday.
The main source of new infections is North America, where new case reports are up by one-third.
New cases more than doubled in Alberta, Canada, “where hospitals are experiencing a critical staffing shortage,” said Dr. Carissa F. Etienne, director of the Pan American Health Organization, a division of the World Health Organization, at a news conference. And, with new cases in the United States reaching levels not seen since January, “hospital capacity in many Southern U.S. states remains worisomely low,” according to Dr. Etienne.
Infections are also on the rise in several Central American countries, including Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Belize. The virus’s spread has slowed somewhat in the Caribbean, but there are exceptions, such as Jamaica, where new case reports are at their highest since the pandemic began.
In contrast, reports of new infections and Covid-19 deaths are declining in most of South America, which was hit hard earlier this year. The organization’s experts are unsure why, though they dismiss speculation that a drop in testing could be to blame.
“It is important to note that this drop in South America is not the result of laboratory testing,” said Dr. Sylvain Aldighieri, P.A.H.O.’s Covid-19 incident manager. “Laboratory vigilance has been upheld.”
According to Dr. Aldighieri, a number of factors, including strict social distancing measures and reduced mobility in some countries, could be at work in South America. Seasonal changes may also play a role, he adds, noting that “the epidemiological curves for influenza in South America between 2014 and 2019 have a similar behavior to Covid-19 between 2020 and 2021.”
Although the highly infectious Delta variant is becoming more prevalent in the Caribbean, Dr. Aldighieri believes it has yet to make significant inroads into South America.
Officials from the World Health Organization urged national governments to pay closer attention to how the pandemic affects children, both directly and indirectly.
“At the start of the pandemic, the virus had a disproportionate impact on our elderly,” Dr. Etienne explained, “and as a result, too many children and young people still don’t believe they are at risk. That must be changed.”
Because of the strains placed on health services by the pandemic, many young people are not receiving annual checkups, routine vaccinations, and other services, including reproductive health services. This is contributing to “one of the largest increases in teen pregnancy that we’ve seen in more than a decade,” according to Dr. Etienne.
Furthermore, school closures due to the pandemic have “caused the worst educational crisis we have ever seen in this region,” she added.