On Wednesday March 3, 2021, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported a 7% increase in new COVID-19 cases globally. The increase in new cases equates to over 2.6 million new cases, the highest number of new cases in a single week since early January. As weeks of downwards trending numbers across the globe gave many the hopes that the pandemic might be finally taking a backseat, experts from the WHO warned that those numbers could very well continue their upward trajectory.
While the cause of this uptick is not yet known, the WHO stated that factors such as the emergence of new, more aggressive strains of the virus, loosening public safety measures, or the general decline observed around individuals adhering to public health and safety measures, (‘pandemic fatigue’), could all likely be the cause.
The United States saw a 6% increase in new cases over the last seven-day period, reporting a total of 65,400 new COVID-19 cases. While this number is far below the record-setting 300,000 new cases reported in just one day in early January, it’s important to note that these numbers are much higher than when the virus first peaked over the summer, causing many states to halt their reopening plans and re-lockdown.
In its weekly epidemiological update, the WHO expressed concern for the loosening safety measures by both individuals and state authorities,
“Basic public health measures remain the foundation of the response. For public health authorities, that means testing, contact tracing, isolation, supported quarantine, and quality care. For individuals, it means avoiding crowds, physical distancing, hand hygiene, masks, and ventilation.”
While cases have been steadily declining for weeks, and with another vaccine approved for emergency use, now is not the time to lift safety measures. As of March 3, only 8.1% of the population has received both doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, far below the numbers needed for any type of ‘herd immunity’ predicted by scientists.
Even with the immunity gained from vaccination, the WHO urges those who have been vaccinated to still take the same safety measures as those who have not, stating that, “immunity conferred by vaccination takes weeks at the individual level, and it may take longer to observe impacts at the population level.”
The pandemic is still here, and with numbers heading back upwards, it doesn’t seem to be on its way out just yet. Individuals are still urged to practice safe, effective measures while out in public, such as wearing a properly fitting face mask, distancing themselves from others, and avoiding large gatherings both indoors and outdoors. Now, over a year of life in a pandemic, it’s just as important to listen to the advice given by experts and follow public health and safety measures as it was this time last year.
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