COVID hot spots persist in Latin American countries

Drive through COVID vax
Drive through COVID vax

Jair Ferreira Belafacce / iStock

Brazil's decline in cases has stopped, and cases and deaths doubled last week in parts of Argentina and Uruguay, a sign that the Americas region is still in the heat of battle with COVID, officials from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) said today during a briefing.

Though the world's cases declined last week, four of the five highest burden countries are in the Americas region, the World Health Organization (WHO) said yesterday in its weekly snapshot of the pandemic. They include the Brazil, the United States, Argentina, and Colombia.

Americas still wracked by cases, deaths

Yesterday, Argentina—now in its second surge—reported a record daily high for deaths, with 745 confirmed, in addition to 35,543 new cases, according to Reuters.

At today's briefing, Carissa Etienne, MBBS, MSc, PAHO's director, said intensive care occupancy rates are at 90% in Brazil and Colombia, a sign that people are still at risk for not getting care. She added that Costa Rica, Panama, and parts of Honduras are experiencing sharp rises in COVID activity, with infection numbers also rising in Bolivia and French Guiana. In a number of Caribbean locations, deaths doubled over the past week, including the Bahamas, Haiti, and Trinidad and Tobago.

In parts of Canada, including Newfoundland and the Northwest territories, cases have tripled, and hospitalizations are rising across the country.

Etienne said the impact of vaccine rollout in the United States has been dramatic, underscoring the importance of speeding vaccine access to other parts of the region. Only 3% of the population in Latin America has been vaccinated, compared to the nearly half of US residents who have received at least one dose.

Record deaths in India

Though India's cases have shown some signs of decline, falling 12% of the past week according to the WHO's update, deaths continue to surge. Over the past day, deaths crossed the 4,500 mark, setting another daily high mark for India and for the world, according to the New York Times.

Data from a private lab chain in India underscores the massive spread of the virus there, according to Reuters. The company said 63.5% of people have tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 antibodies over the past week, up sharply from 45% a month ago. The data cover people from 25 of the country's states.

In clinical developments, following a rise in potentially fatal fungal lung infections, called mucormycosis, in COVID patients, the country is running low on Amphotericin-B, the antifungal drug needed for treatment, according to the Washington Post. It's not clear how many people have the coinfection, which might be related to steroid treatment, but Maharashtra state has reported as many as 1,500 cases, 50 of them fatal. People are reaching out on social media for supplies of the drug, and one of the country's pharmacists' unions said the drug is unavailable in most stores.

More global headlines

  • European Union countries have agreed to open borders to vaccinated international travelers, according to a spokesman who said final approval could come this week or next and take effect within days, according to the Washington Post.

  • In vaccine developments, United Kingdom officials said they are increasingly confident that the B1617 variant first identified in India is susceptible to vaccines and may not be as transmissible as earlier thought, according to Reuters. Also, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain have both announced that they will offer people who received two doses of China's Sinopharm vaccine a booster dose, at least 6 months after the second shot, according to Reuters.

  • In Asia, Taiwan today raised its national alert level to the second highest level after reporting 267 more local cases, and China has ramped up its vaccination efforts, immunizing 100 million people in 9 days, which came in the wake of small outbreaks in Anhui and Liaoning provinces.

  • The global total is approaching 164 million cases and is at 164,960,600 cases, with at least 3,397,600 deaths, according to the New York Times tracker.

This week's top reads