Latin America is the new epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic, the World Health Organization declared Monday, as the region’s daily death rate now exceeds that in either the United States or Europe.
The WHO said Monday there are nearly 938,000 COVID-19 related cases throughout Latin America and the Caribbean and almost 50,000 deaths a day. Brazil, Chile and Ecuador lead Central and South America with the most cases.
In the United States, COVID-19 has killed about 26,000 nursing home residents, the government reports, accounting for nearly one-fourth of all U.S. deaths from the disease. About 450 nursing home staffers have also died of COVID-19.
“This data, and anecdotal reports across the country, clearly show that nursing homes have been devastated by the virus,” CDC Director Robert Redfield and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services chief Seema Verma said in a letter to state governors.
COVID-19 is especially devastating to the elderly, many of whom already have other health issues. Some experts say the number of COVID cases in nursing homes could be undercounted because some of the deaths may be attributed to other causes.
Federal officials are recommending one-time tests for all nursing home residents and staff and weekly follow-up tests. Verma also says nursing facilities must take “extreme caution” before deciding whether to reopen their doors to visitors.
She also says her office is increasing penalties on nursing homes that fail to take the proper precautions against infections.
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, authorities reported a new outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus on the same day they announced the country has 3,200 COVID-19 cases.
The DRC health ministry said it found six cases in a region along the Congo River on the border with the Republic of Congo. This comes just as the DRC was planning to declare the end of an earlier Ebola outbreak in North Kivu, in the eastern DRC.
The Ebola and COVID-19 outbreaks in the DRC come on top of what experts say is the world’s largest measles outbreak.
Meanwhile, more world tourist sites started to welcome visitors again Monday. They include the Florida Keys, the Coliseum in Rome, Greek hotels, beaches in Turkey, and museums in the Netherlands. But all visitors are still urged to take appropriate precautions.