More than one million people have died from COVID-19 in North and South America, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) reported. Last week two million more cases were reported in the Americas, with the United States the main driver of the outbreak.
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.