Americas COVID-19 death toll hits one million, hospitals brimming, warns PAHO


National Guard personnel and pharmacists from Safeway and Albertsons administer vaccines at a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) mass vaccination site at the Clark County Event Center at the Fairgrounds in Ridgefield, Washington, U.S. January 27, 2021. REUTERS/Alisha Jucevic

BRASILIA (Reuters) - Over 1 million people have died from COVID-19 in North and South America, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) said on Wednesday.

In the last week alone, 2 million more cases were reported in the Americas, with the United States the main driver of the outbreak, the WHO regional branch said. Globally, there have been over 100 million cases and 2.1 million deaths with 44 million cases in North and South America, according to a Reuters tally.

Throughout North America, there is growing pressure on hospital capacity and in some U.S. states nearly 80% of ICU beds are being used to treat COVID-19 patients, PAHO head Carissa Etienne said in a virtual briefing.

Similar rates are seen in many states in Mexico, where the number of cases is tripling in some regions, she warned.

The hospital situation in Brazil is particularly worrisome, with three-quarters of ICU beds occupied in many Brazilian states, she said.

In Manaus, many patients await beds in hospitals collapsing under the strain of a second wave of coronavirus infections complicated by a new variant of the virus detected there.

Variants that have emerged in the region or outside of it have been detected in 14 countries in North and South America, PAHO said.

Only a few cases of the British and South African mutations have been found, mainly on travelers, and they do not appear to be spreading in the region, according to PAHO, but the Amazon variant that has emerged in the Brazilian city of Manaus does appears to have a high transmission rate.

PAHO expects the deployment of COVID-19 vaccines made available for poorer countries through the U.N.-led COVAX facility to start in March, with some 164 million doses.

The COVAX facility is expected to deploy 2 billion doses worldwide.

(Reporting by Anthony Boadle; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

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