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Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) urges caution as COVID cases rise in the Americas

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Posted: Thursday, November 25, 2021. 9:28 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: Is COVID-19 on the march again?

The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) has warned against complacency in tackling the pandemic with Europe seeing record spikes in COVID-19 infections and cases rising by 23 percent in the Americas over the past week.

Upward trends are appearing throughout the Americas, particularly in the United States and Canada. In South America, nearly every country is reporting increased incidences, including in the Southern Cone. High rates of infection are also reported in the Caribbean. Central America is the only area to have experienced a drop in new infections.

Director Carissa F. Etienne observed, “Throughout this pandemic, Europe has been a window into the future for the Americas…The future is unfolding before us, and it must be a wake-up call for our region.”

“As end of year celebrations approach, get vaccinated, keep gatherings small and ensure mask-wearing and social distancing, especially indoors,” she further urged in speaking with reporters this week.

Over the last few weeks, many European countries have reported record numbers of new cases despite high vaccination coverage. The relaxation of public health measures combined with pockets of unvaccinated people has created the perfect environment for the virus to spread, Dr. Etienne said.

While just over half of people in Latin America and the Caribbean are now fully vaccinated against COVID, 19 countries have yet to reach the WHO target of 40% vaccination coverage by the end of 2021. Despite this, preventative measures are being lifted, including in densely populated areas.

“Every time we lower our guard, the virus gains momentum,” the PAHO Director said, “and threatens our hard-fought gains.”

Last year, the Americas saw a jump in new cases following the holiday season, which took months to decline. With the upcoming holidays and summer vacations in the Southern Hemisphere, Dr. Etienne warned that “our individual and collective decisions chart the path of this pandemic.”

It is therefore crucial that individuals get vaccinated as soon as possible to protect against severe disease and prevent hospitals from becoming overwhelmed, particularly if they plan to travel, she said. Continued public health measures alongside vaccination are also key to reducing the spread. These include mask-wearing, social distancing, and avoiding large gatherings, particularly indoors.

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