North America seeing record-setting daily COVID-19 cases, says WHO regional director

Slideshow ( 2 images )

BRASILIA (Reuters) - COVID-19 deaths in the Americas have increased nearly 30% in November compared with the end of October, while North America is seeing record-setting daily cases registered, the World Health Organization’s regional director said on Wednesday.

Hospitalizations in the United States are at their highest since the onset of the pandemic, and in Canada COVID-19 is spreading to indigenous communities in remote areas such as the Yukon and Nunavut, Carissa Etienne warned.

In South America, Brazil has been experiencing an increase in several states in the last few weeks, while cases continue to decline in Argentina, she said in a briefing from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) in Washington.

The initially limited supply of vaccines will make it necessary for countries to give priority to health workers and the elderly, said PAHO Assistant Director Jarbas Barbosa.

PAHO has commissioned a report on the health conditions of Afro-descendants, who are disproportionately affected by COVID-19 and more likely to die from the virus, Etienne said.

The report will focus on better data and improved access to health services so that populations of African descent have the means to protect themselves, she said, stressing the racial dimensions of the pandemic.

“Our Afro-descendant populations are on the front lines of our fight against COVID-19,” Etienne said.

“They’re among the essential workers who power our sanitation systems, run our public transportation, care for our elderly, and tend to the sick,” she added.

Reporting by Anthony Boadle; editing by Jonathan Oatis