World's COVID-19 cases top 40 million

Pumpkin shopping with masks
Pumpkin shopping with masks

Baker County Tourism / Flickr cc

The global number of COVID-19 cases passed 40 million today, led by a deepening situation in Europe and a steady rise in cases—and clashes within the Trump Administration—in the United States.

Call for solidarity as Northern Hemisphere heats up

At a World Health Organization (WHO) media briefing today, Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, PhD, said rising cases in the Northern Hemisphere—especially Europe and America—are tracking with the onset of winter, and as numbers increase, so are hospitalizations and intensive care unit (ICU) admissions. He added that nurses and doctors, however, have a better understanding on how to treat patients, compared to the early days of the pandemic.

Tedros said he understands that the world is facing fatigue regarding all the response measures. "The virus has shown that, when we let our guard down, it can surge back at breakneck speed and threaten hospitals and health systems." Overwhelmed hospital capacity is dangerous for both patients and health workers, he emphasized.

Everyone has a part to play with steps like physical distancing, mask wearing, observing good hand hygiene, and ensuring good ventilation when indoors, Tedros reiterated.

At today's briefing, Tedros announced the start of a "We Are Family" campaign, highlighted by the well-known song by the same title as a call for solidarity, unity, and collaboration as the world heads into more difficult months with the pandemic.

At today's briefing, Kim Sledge, with the group Sister Sledge that popularized the song in the disco era, said her husband and daughter are both doctors, so she's keenly aware of coronavirus challenges. She said a new use for the song is a reminder for the wider global family to embrace one another through these difficult times.

In other developments, Tedros said the number of countries participating in the COVAX initiative has risen to 184, with Ecuador and Uruguay the most recent to join. COVAX is an effort to speed the development of a portfolio of COVID-19 vaccines and ensure their equitable distribution as a way to decrease the worldwide threat.

US cases, White House tensions both rising

The United States reported 48,210 new cases and 388 more deaths yesterday, according to the Johns Hopkins online dashboard. And the 7-day average has now passed 55,000 cases per day, up 30% from 2 weeks ago, National Public Radio reported. Hospitalization, which typically lag cases, are now on the rise in 40 states.

In federal developments, President Donald Trump today on a campaign phone call lashed out at Tony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases who is also on the White House coronavirus task force, the Washington Post and other media outlets reported.

The president's comments apparently came in response to a "60 Minutes" interview last night in which Fauci said—among several concerns— that he worried about Trump getting sick with the virus, given that the administration flouted public health advice. During today's call, Trump called Fauci a "disaster" and claimed without evidence that deaths from COVID-19 would be far higher if Fauci were in charge.

The latest flare-up followed reports over the weekend that discord on the White House coronavirus task force has worsened since Scott Atlas, MD, a neuroradiologist and medical advisor to Trump, joined the group, according to a separate Post story. Atlas has championed the controversial herd immunity strategy of controlling the virus, which most scientists say is medically and ethically problematic.

In a related development, Twitter yesterday removed a tweet from Atlas that sought to undermine the importance of and science behind the use of facemasks, CNN reported.

In other US developments:

  • After months of wrangling, a coronavirus relief package is still elusive, and yesterday House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the White House has 48 hours to finalize an agreement with Democrats to get a bill pushed through before Election Day, Politico reported.

  • A quarter of US workers have considered quitting their jobs over COVID-19 concerns, with about 57% saying their employer is "doing about the right amount" in responding to the pandemic, according to an Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll.

  • CVS Health announced today that it would hire 15,000 more workers in advance of an expected rises in COVID-19 and seasonal flu and the anticipated rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine in the months ahead.

  • The US total today rose to 8,201,554 cases, which includes 220,020 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins tracker.

Europe's hot spots step up measures

At today's WHO media briefing, Mike Ryan, MD, who directs the group's health emergencies program, said in half of Europe's countries, cases rose 50% last week, and among two-thirds, cases rose by one-third or more.

"We're beginning to see hospitalizations track that and even deaths," he said, adding that officials are hopeful that, because of the younger age profile of patients and better treatment, the fatalities won't be as bad as during the pandemic's earlier months,.

A number of European countries continue to report record daily case numbers, such as Russia today with 15,982 new cases, roughly a third of them in Moscow, where officials have stepped up several measures, including opening temporary hospitals, Reuters reported. Italy also reported record cases yesterday, and the country's prime minister gave mayors new powers to limit gatherings.

Meanwhile, Wales announced a 2-week lockdown—which applies to all but essential workers—starting on Oct 23 to blunt the country's accelerating cases, and Switzerland yesterday unveiled new measures to tackle its second wave, including a national mask mandate and a ban on large gatherings.

The global total today climbed to 40,269,921 cases, and 1,116,138 people have died from their infections, according to the Johns Hopkins online dashboard.

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