New COVID-19 infections in the Americas have reached their highest level since the pandemic began, health officials said, as the highly contagious Omicron variant is now the dominant tribe in the region.
During a weekly virtual news report on Wednesday, the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) said more than eight million new COVID-19 cases were reported in the Americas in the past week, an increase of 32 percent over the previous week.
About 18,000 deaths were also reported, an increase of 37 percent over the same period.
PAHO Director Carissa Etienne said the United States still has the highest numbers of new infections in the region, despite a recent decline in overall cases, while deaths in Central America rose 107 percent this week compared to last week.
In Mexico’s southern states, the number of new infections has tripled in the past week.
“As COVID cases spread more actively – and faster – than ever before, it is clear that Omicron is currently becoming the dominant… strain in our region,” Etienne told the news conference.
The new data comes as healthcare systems across the Americas are experiencing the strain of a rapid increase in cases and hospitalizations linked to Omicron. The rise in infections has once again caused staff shortages and some hospitals forced care to ration.
Etienne said Belize is currently reporting the highest rates of new infections in Central America, and infections are increasing in Honduras and Costa Rica. In South America, Paraguay and parts of Guiana, she sees COVID-19 cases double almost every two days, she added, and infections are particularly high in Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador.
Meanwhile, Brazil reported a total of 477,000 cases over the past week – an increase of 193 percent over the previous week, while Haiti and Martinique – where vaccination rates are still low – still report significant cases.
Important in combating the spread of the disease, Etienne said, is the accurate collection of data.
“Now more than ever we need data on how this virus affects different ages, genders, groups and geographies so that we can equip local municipalities and districts with the tools they need to manage risks and guide their populations during this time. , “she said.
This data 📊 is also critical to help countries identify gaps and target resources to ensure that the people most at risk for serious COVID-19 disease and death are protected first.@DirOPSPAHO # COVID-19
– PAHO / WIE (@pahowho) 26 January 2022
In the US, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said during the past week, an average of 692,000 new cases were detected daily, a decrease of 6 percent from the previous week.
Hospitalizations averaged 19,800 per day, a decrease of 8 percent from a week ago, while deaths rose to an average of 2,200 per day – an increase of 21 percent.
Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC, said despite the high number of cases, the hospitalization rate is lower than during previous waves of the pandemic, thanks to vaccines, immunity due to previous infection, as well as the likelihood that Omicron is less severe than previous variants.
Yet Walensky said there are more people in the hospital than ever before in the country, putting health systems under pressure. Hospitalization rates are also high among unvaccinated adults – a persistent problem in the US, where tens of millions of Americans, despite the availability of vaccines and boosters remain unvaccinated due to misinformation and political ideology.
“While it is encouraging that Omicron appears to be causing less serious illness, it is important to remember that we are still facing a high overall disease burden,” Walensky said Wednesday during a regular COVID-19 task force news conference.
“I know a lot of people are being tried, but a lot of our hospitals are still struggling out of capacity.”