Covid-19 global death toll tops 500k with over a quarter in US, Alex Azar says nation is 'missing window' to act

The US is still leading the world, both in the number of cases and the death toll. The situation in other parts of the world is also looking grim


                            Covid-19 global death toll tops 500k with over a quarter in US, Alex Azar says nation is 'missing window' to act
(Getty Images)

The Covid-19 threat is growing with each passing day. The number of cases across the globe has topped 10 million in just over six months. The death toll has surpassed the 500,000 mark, more than a quarter of which is recorded in the US. The situation in other parts of the world is looking grim too.

Still, the US is leading the world, both in the number of cases and deaths. Even before the country could get some breathing space from Covid-19, it began witnessing a surge of new cases flooding the south and west. States, which opened up too quickly, have hit new highs, including Florida and Texas. Some of them are placing restrictions on businesses.

US health secretary Alex Azar said the window to act was closing." Things are very different from two months ago... So it is a very different situation, but this is a very, very serious situation and the window is closing for us to take action and get this under control," Azar told CNN.

One scientist said that situation in other worst-hit countries is improving, except in America. "The US now has reproduced its March-April trajectory for new confirmed cases and #Covid19 spread. A pattern distinct, and opposite from the worst-hit countries in Europe: Italy, Spain, France, UK, and Belgium that have all descended," Dr Eric Topol, Founder and Director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute, tweeted. The first peak in the country was due to a lack of testing. Now, premature reopening, unready containment infrastructure and a lack of mandatory rules for masks have contributed to the second peak.

Threats in US

US jails are emerging as hotspots. According to a report from the American Civil Liberties Union and the Prison Policy Initiative, states have poorly acted against the Covid-19 threat. More than 570 prisoners and more than 50 corrections officers have died due to Covid-19. "It is clear that no state has done enough and that all states failed to implement a cohesive, system-wide response," the report said.

The report also added that states, barring Michigan, Massachusetts, Tennessee, West Virginia and Vermont, failed to provide enough testing. As for reducing jail numbers, some states acted, but that was not adequate to keep prisons safe.

States have poorly acted against the Covid-19 threat in prisons. (Getty Images)

There is more. More young people are contracting Covid-19 now, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Some experts fear that infections among the young could endanger the vulnerable. "We may need to get out the message that young people are not somehow naturally immune to this virus, although they may be at lower risk of severe infection," CDC's Dr Jay Butler told CNN

One study also made a case for messaging. In the early stages of the outbreak in Washington, health authorities formulated plans to educate the elderly on the need for social distancing, mask-wearing and avoiding the public. As a result, the number of infections among the older population began plummeting. But young adults and children were not adequately informed. Public health officials told them that they were likely to have a mild form of the disease. It provided an illusion that these people are not under restrictions, resulting in the uptick, Dr Judith Malmgren, an affiliate assistant professor at the University of Washington and President of HealthStat Consulting Inc, earlier told MEA WorldWide (MEAWW). "This is a testament to the success in curtailing the disease in older adults but a failure to protect younger adults and children from a potentially deadly disease," she added.

Azar told CNN that the US was seeing a majority of new cases emerging from people under 35. Because many show mild or no symptoms, authorities may find it difficult to control the outbreak. He added that people's behavior, avoiding safety guidelines, rather than the premature opening of businesses was responsible for the spike. Azar asked people to follow safety guidelines to curb the spread of the disease.
 
Vice-President Mike Pence also urged Americans living in high-risk areas to use face coverings. "We encourage everyone to wear a mask in the affected areas. Where you can't maintain social distancing, wearing a mask is just a good idea, especially young people," he told reporters.

Can vaccines induce herd immunity in the US?

Dr Anthony Fauci, a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, said he would settle for a coronavirus vaccine that was 70-75% effective. But he added that might not be enough to achieve herd immunity, as some Americans could refuse to get themselves vaccinated.
 
"The best we've ever done is measles, which is 97 to 98 percent effective," Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN. "That would be wonderful if we get there. I don't think we will. I would settle for [a] 70, 75% effective vaccine."

 In June, China's Beijing reported a Covid-19 outbreak, traced to the Xinfadi market. (Getty Images)

Growing threats across the world

Ranking behind the US is Brazil, Russia and India. The number of new cases in Russia has declined for three consecutive days. The country has reported more than 633K cases and over 9,000 deaths. Things are looking bleak in Brazil and India, as Covid-19 ravages both the countries. The former has confirmed 1.3 million cases, and the latter has more than 528k cases, so far.

Other countries that had beaten the virus now are seeing a resurgence. In June, China's Beijing reported a Covid-19 outbreak, traced to the Xinfadi market. More than 300 infections have been confirmed so far. In response to the growing threat, authorities have tested a third of the city's population.  “This means we have already tested all the people that need to be tested. We are also rolling out large scale screening to key regions, and key populations (of the city),” Zhang Qiang, an official from Beijing’s municipal committee, told reporters.

South Korea has reported an outbreak linked to churches. On Monday, the country confirmed 42 new cases, taking the tally to 12,757. A meat-processing plant in Germany has been linked to a spike, with 262 new cases on Monday, bringing the total numbers to more than 193k. Austalia's Victoria has witnessed double-digit cases for 11 straight days.

For more information and statistics on the coronavirus pandemic, click on the Newsbreak tracker here