Covid Rising Again, Jamaica in 5th Wave, Some Americans Say Pandemic Over, World Covid Stats, More

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COVID is rising in the Americas, virus ‘not going away anytime soon’ -PAHO

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COVID-19 picks up pace in Americas as Omicron spreads

People walk in a crowded street as new cases of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), driven by the Omicron variant, are surging, in Lima, Peru January 12, 2022. Picture taken January 12, 2022. REUTERS/Angela Ponce

SAO PAULO, May 18 (Reuters) – COVID-19 is on the rise again in the Americas as many countries have abandoned measures like masking and social distancing and many lag in vaccination rates, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) said on Wednesday.

Cases in the Americas surged 27.2% last week from the prior one, driven primarily by a spike in infections in the United States, according to PAHO.

More than half of a total 918,000 infections came from North America as U.S. cases jumped by 33% to 605,000 in the last week. Infections in North America have now been climbing for the past seven weeks.

PAHO Director Dr. Carissa Etienne noted that many countries and local governments are giving up measures to protect against the virus and have reopened borders after a period of lower transmission.

“Masking and social distancing have served us well since the start of the pandemic and are still valid measures to lower virus transmission,” she said, adding that governments should be ready to scale up these measures whenever there is an increase in cases or deaths.

Too many people remain at risk, PAHO said, as only 14 of the 51 countries and territories in the Americas have reached the World Health Organization’s goal of vaccinating 70% of their population, she added during a news conference.

PAHO said new COVID-19 infections and deaths in the region have been rising steadily over the past four weeks, with over 3,500 fatalities reported last week.

Central America saw the largest percentage rise in cases, with infections soaring by 80%. In Brazil, the second most populated country in the Americas, infections increased by 9% to 120,000.

“It is time to take stock of these numbers and act. COVID is again on the rise in the Americas,” Etienne said. “The truth is this virus is not going away anytime soon.”

Reporting by Gabriel Araujo and Steven Grattan; Editing by Bill Berkrot
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Jamaica Experiencing 5th Wave of COVID-19

Jamaica’s Minister of Health and Wellness Minister, Dr. Christopher Tufton has confirmed that the island is now experiencing a fifth wave of COVID-19 infections.

He made the revelation during a COVID-19 press conference on May 18.

“Upon reviewing the epidemiology data, we can confirm that Jamaica is currently experiencing the fifth wave of COVID-19. Based on a review of the epidemiological curves for confirmed cases and reproductive rates to identify the inflection point for increased cases. The inflection point for the fifth wave occurred around April 20,” the minister explained.

Dr. Tufton noted that the Omicron BA2 variant is likely driving the wave.

In the last 24 hours, Jamaica saw 147 new COVID-19 cases. Minister Tufton added that the positivity rate is 17.6 per cent.

Despite the declaration of the fifth wave, Dr. Tufton urged Jamaicans not to panic. He did however urge Jamaicans to get vaccinated against the virus.

“All persons 12 years and older should visit any of the over 100 vaccination centers to be vaccinated if they have not already done so,” he said.

According to COVID.Vax.Live, some 23 percent of Jamaica’s population is fully vaccinated. Despite the low vaccination rate, the government has reiterated that it will not be going back to strict measures like lockdowns but has urged residents to take personal responsibility.

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Officials: US falling behind for new vaccines

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Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday while traveling in Berlin, the department announced.

“This morning in Berlin, ahead of G7 meetings for health ministers, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra tested positive for COVID-19 after taking a PCR test,” said HHS spokeswoman Sarah Lovenheim. “He is fully vaccinated and boosted against COVID-19, and is experiencing mild symptoms. He will continue to perform his duties as HHS Secretary, working in isolation.”

Becerra most recently visited the White House on Thursday. However, President Biden is not considered a close contact, according to HHS.

Becerra is the latest in a string of high-profile Biden administration officials to contract the virus, as the United States sees a surge in cases. Vice President Harris and Secretary of State Antony Blinken both recently had the virus.

Biden so far has avoided having a known case of the virus, but the White House has acknowledged it is possible he will be infected as well. The administration argues that tools like vaccines, booster shots, and treatments now exist that make the virus much more management.

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WORLD COVID STATS

Coronavirus Cases:

526,027,276

Deaths:

6,297,317

Recovered:

495,802,774
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