The Americas registered their highest number of COVID-19 cases in the past week since the pandemic began as omicron became the predominant variant, Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Director Carissa Etienne said Wednesday during a weekly virtual news briefing.
As the region enters its third year of the pandemic, the coronavirus continues to ravage health systems in countries that are still reporting low vaccination rates.
In the past week, the region reported more than 8 million new COVID-19 infections, 32% higher than the previous week. Deaths also increased by 37%, reaching 18,000.
In recent weeks, Mexico's daily coronavirus count has soared. In some of its states, infections have tripled over the last week, Etienne said.
But President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has downplayed the impact of the omicron variant, saying that the pandemic was "on the way out" of the country because the variant was less severe.
According to PAHO, in Central America, fatalities were up 107% compared to the previous week.
Belize reported the highest rates of new infections in Central America and infections are also rising in Honduras and Costa Rica.
COVID cases are also increasing in South America, with spikes in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador. Paraguay is seeing cases double every two days, said Etienne.
In the Caribbean, significant surges in infections were reported in Haiti, a country that reports some of the lowest vaccination rates in the region.
The US continues to register the highest number of new infections, said Etienne, “although cases decreased by nearly one million over the last week.”
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that over the past week, an average of 692,000 new cases had been detected daily, down 6% from the previous week.
Although epidemiologists in the region still do not know when the curve of infections caused by the omicron variant will go down, some say the new variant could bring the pandemic to an end in March, as is occurring in Europe.
Etienne also emphasized the importance of keeping data to care for and treat patients effectively.
“Now more than ever, we need data about how this virus is affecting different ages, genders, groups and geographies so we can equip local municipalities and districts with the tools they need to manage risk and guide their populations during this time,” she said.
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