More people worldwide have died of COVID-19 so far this year than during all of last year, according to data tallied by Johns Hopkins University. So far, 3.77 million deaths have been reported since the pandemic began — with 1.89 million reported in 2021 exceeding the 1.88 million deaths counted as of December 31, 2020. While the true toll of the pandemic last year may have been far higher — in part the result of data lags, missed cases, and incomplete reporting — the figure serves as a stark reminder of the raging pandemic that continues to claim millions of lives around the world, even as vaccinations have arrested the worst of the disease's spread in the U.S. To date, a total of nearly 600,000 deaths have been reported in the U.S. Worldwide, an average of more than 9,000 deaths from COVID-19 are still being confirmed daily. That rate of newly reported deaths has steadily declined from its last peak in April, but remains higher than record daily tolls from November of last year.Cases, hospitalizations, and deaths are also climbing inside many countries. The World Health Organization warned this week that the Western Pacific region, which encompasses Asia, had again recorded its highest incidence of deaths to date."Increasingly, we see a two-track pandemic. Many countries still face an extremely dangerous situation, while some of those with the highest vaccination rates are starting to talk about ending restrictions," World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters on Monday.Public health officials have repeatedly warned world leaders against prematurely easing COVID-19 restrictions over the past weeks, citing concerns over a surge in new fast-spreading strains of the virus. The White House also raised concerns Tuesday over recent data suggesting vaccines were significantly less effective after one dose against the B.1.617.2 variant first identified in India. President Biden's chief medical adviser, Dr. Anthony Fauci, urged Americans to "make sure you get that second dose."Dubbed the "Delta" variant by the World Health Organization, that mutation now appears to be driving outbreaks of cases in several countries around the world, even in the United Kingdom where 6 in 10 residents have at least one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine. Health officials say there's evidence that being fully vaccinated still offers protection against all known variants.In the U.S., B.1.617.2 has already been spotted by labs in 49 states. "Nowcast" projections published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate it could make up 6.1% of circulating virus in the country. The somber milestone also comes as President Biden is touting a "historic" purchase of 500 million doses in Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine to donate to low- and middle-income countries and the African Union through 2022, beyond the 80 million doses he had pledged to share by June.
The U.S. is recording a weekly average of 61,821 new Covid-19 cases per day, a 12% increase compared with a week ago, according to a CNBC analysis of data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Daily cases are now growing by at least 5% in 27 states and D.C.Coronavirus hospitalizations are also beginning to make a rebound. The U.S. reported a seven-day average of 4,790 Covid-19 hospital admissions on Thursday, a 2.6% increase compared with the week prior, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data.“We’re in a delicate and tenuous period of transition,” Dr. William Schaffner, an epidemiologist and professor of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University, told CNBC. “We’re doing well, but we’re not there yet.”
Some states are widely reopening their economies while dropping mask mandates too soon, Schaffner added. The return of spring break travelers taking advantage of cheap flights and hotels has further exacerbated the risk of more infections.“All of those things could conspire to create another surge in cases before the vaccinations start to really take hold in reducing transmission,” Schaffner said. “We have the danger — and I do mean danger — of having another surge within the next two months.”Variants loomAnother concern is the spread of highly infectious coronavirus variants, particularly the one first identified in the U.K. dubbed B.1.1.7., infectious disease experts tell CNBC. The CDC is carefully following another variant found in New York City, called B.1.526, which is also thought to be more transmissible compared with previous strains, the agency’s Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said on Wednesday.