Global coronavirus cases saw their “first substantial decline” in more than two months last week, the World Health Organization reported Tuesday. Yet cases in the U.S. continue to remain highly elevated, particularly among children, according to a separate pediatric report.
New COVID-19 cases fell over the last week in all six global regions the WHO operates in ― Africa, the Americas, the Eastern Mediterranean, Europe, South-East Asia and the Western Pacific ― compared to the previous week. The total number of deaths reported globally also decreased compared to the previous week, according to The WHO’s weekly case report which tallied about 4 million new cases, down from about 4.4 million.
The Americas and Europe had the highest weekly rates of COVID-19 cases and related deaths. This was similar to the week before. The U.S. continues to report the highest number of new cases, with 1 million added last week. The United Kingdom came in second, with 256,000 new cases, followed by India with 248,000 new cases.
Caseloads have generally been climbing in the U.S. since the start of summer, though there has been a recent dip in the seven-day average, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
This weekslong rise has largely been seen in the South, particularly in the states of Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia and South Carolina, where vaccination rates have remained on the lower end and elected leaders have vowed to fight vaccine and mask mandates. Though Florida had long been a coronavirus hot spot, with its governor launching his own fight against such mandates, the state has seen a drop in new cases in recent weeks and has topped 31 states in its rate of vaccination doses administered per 100,000 people, according to CDC data.
Collectively, 63% of people in the U.S. have received at least one vaccine dose, while 54% are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC. The WHO has said that all countries must reach a 70% vaccination rate by mid-2022 in order to control the pandemic, though not a single low-income country has reached any of its lowest target goals as of this month.
“High-income countries have now administered almost 100 doses for every 100 people. Meanwhile, low-income countries have only been able to administer 1.5 doses for every 100 people, due to lack of supply,” the WHO said in a statement Tuesday.
WHO Director-General Dr, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus cautioned that this vaccination gap allows the virus to continue to spread and mutate, placing everyone at a greater risk.
“This doesn’t only hurt the people of Africa, it hurts all of us,” he said. “The longer vaccine inequity persists, the more the virus will keep circulating and changing, the longer the social and economic disruption will continue, and the higher the chances that more variants will emerge that render vaccines less effective.”
The European Union’s executive chief announced Wednesday that it will donate 200 million vaccine doses to poorer countries by the middle of next year to help close this gap. This donation follows the EU previously pledging 250 million doses.
COVID-19 cases among children have meanwhile continued to climb to near-record numbers in the U.S., according to a report released Monday by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association.
More than 243,000 children tested positive for the virus over the past week, amounting to 15.5% of all new cases, according to the report. This was the second highest number of pediatric cases in a week since the pandemic began. About 252,000 new coronavirus cases were reported among children in the week prior, up from 8,447 new cases reported the week of June 24.
“After declining in early summer, child cases have increased exponentially, with nearly 500,000 cases in the past 2 weeks,” both health organizations said in a statement.
The WHO, in its own report this week, expressed concern that cases among children may be underreported due to children typically having more mild symptoms than adults, which could lead to less testing. Despite their symptoms being more mild, they remain able to transmit the disease.
“If children and adolescents with mild or no symptoms also transmit the disease, they may also contribute to transmission in the community,” the WHO said in its weekly report.