The global surge in COVID-19 cases slowed a bit last week for the first time in months, though deaths from the virus continued a steady rise, the World Health Organization (WHO) said yesterday in its latest weekly situation report.
Led mainly by continued levels in the Americas and Europe, the pandemic total topped 60 million cases today.
Mixed picture across globe
Though acceleration slowed, the world still added about 4 million cases last week, and officials recorded 67,000 more deaths, the WHO said. The decline in cases came many from Europe and Southeast Asia, though Europe still reported the largest portion of cases and deaths over the past week. Some European countries, weeks into their second lockdowns, are reporting declining cases.
As cases and deaths continue to climb in the Americas, especially in the United States, Africa reported the highest jump in cases and deaths over the past week, 15% and 30%, respectively. The Mediterranean and Western Pacific regions also reported increases.
Overall, the five countries reporting the most cases last week were the United States, India, Italy, Brazil, and France.
In other global developments:
- Four United Kingdom nations—England Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland—agreed to relax their COVID-19 measures for Christmas to allow up to three households to meet at home for 5 days, Reuters reported.
- In the Americas, cases are rising in other nations besides the United States, reflecting a mosaic of situations, even within countries, Jarbas Barbosa, MD, PhD, MPH, said at a Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) briefing Brazil's cases are on the rise, and parts of Uruguay are reporting sharp increases. Canada's cases are also climbing, especially in elderly populations, with outbreaks also reaching indigenous communities. Panama has seen its biggest weekly total of the pandemic, and cases are rising in the eastern Caribbean, especially Saint Lucia, which reported an outbreak in the crew of a docked cargo ship.
- In Japan, Tokyo's governor has asked bars and restaurants to close early, at 10:00 pm, to slow the spread of the virus, according to Reuters. The request includes an offer for cash assistance for affected businesses. The city's cases have topped 500 for several days, with 401 reported today.
- The WHO has named the members of 10-person science mission that will travel to China to explore the origin of SARS-CoV-2, the South China Morning Post reported today. Earlier this summer, a WHO team met with Chinese officials to flesh out the outline for the investigation. Countries represented on the mission include Japan, Qatar, Germany, Vietnam, Russia, Australia, Denmark, the Netherlands, Britain, and the United States. The US member is Peter Daszak, PhD, with EcoHealth Alliance.
- Media reports in China say the country's Sinopharm has applied for Chinese regulatory approval for its COVID-19 vaccines before phase 3 trials are completed, the New York Times noted.
- The global total today rose to 60,174,732 cases, along with 1,417,153 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins tracker.
US surge overwhelms contact tracing
In the United States, hospitalizations continued to surge, with 88,080 Americans currently receiving inpatient care for COVID-19, up from 85,836 the day before, according to the COVID-19 Tracking Project.
The nation reported 172,935 cases yesterday, and, for the first time since the start of the pandemic, the United States added more than 1 million cases in each of the past 2 weeks, the New York Times reported. If the trend continues, November's total could reach 4.5 million.
The persistent surge in cases is overwhelming local health departments that have attempted contact tracing, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is advising them to prioritize which COVID-19 cases to investigate and which contacts to trace, Politico reported. The focus is on people who tested positive in the past 6 days, household members, the elderly, and those who live in or work in congregate settings.
In another CDC development, the agency is finalizing recommendations for a new quarantine period of between 7 and 10 days, rather than the current 14 days, a change designed to encourage more people to comply, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Meanwhile, officials are working out the details of how the first vaccine will be distributed. Within hours of emergency use approval (EUA), federal officials plan to send 6.4 million doses of Pfizer and BioNTech's vaccine to states based on their population, the Washington Post reported. States have been asked to designate their top five spots that can receive and administer the vaccine.
The vaccine must be stored in super cold conditions, and United Parcel Service (UPS) said it is boosting dry ice production and will provide portable super-cold freezers to help its healthcare customers prepare for vaccine rollout, Bloomberg News reported.
Among other US headlines:
- The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits rose last week to 778,000, marking the second week in a row that the number has risen, fueling concerns that the nation's ongoing surge will accelerate the pace of layoffs, according to the Associated Press.
- In an address to the nation from Wilmington, President-elect Joe Biden appealed for national unity and encouraged Americans to brace for a tough fight against coronavirus in the months ahead, the Associated Press reported today. He said the pandemic will be his administration's top priority when he takes office, and he asked people the join him in taking precautions such as physical distancing and wearing masks over Thanksgiving weekend.
- The US total today climbed to 12,715,888 cases, along with 261,480 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins dashboard.