Delta Variant Surges, COVID-19 Pandemic Far from Over, Dr. Tom Kenyon Warns
As U.S. reopens, COVID-19 rages in South America, threatens Africa, strains Indonesia
Washington, D.C. (June 25, 2021) – While overall global coronavirus cases and deaths rates have declined, with some countries reopening, several regions are experiencing escalating emergencies that warrant attention and action. With the Delta variant increasing infection rates and the possibility for additional variants to emerge among billions of unvaccinated people, Dr. Tom Kenyon, chief health officer at Project HOPE and former director of global health at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), issued a statement urging vigilance and vaccination progress:
“If we look at the facts and science, it’s evident that we are sitting on a new COVID-19 time bomb. While we celebrate declining cases and deaths in some parts of the world that are getting vaccinated and taking control measures seriously, most regions remain either at high risk or in full-blown emergency mode. As public health experts have long been predicting, new variants of the COVID-19 virus will likely emerge that are more infectious, make patients sicker, and potentially render our new vaccines less effective. We know with certainty that the only way we have to stay ahead of these variants is through vaccination.
“The Delta variant is now surging ahead wherever control measures or vaccination supply and/or services are weak, doubling every two weeks in the United States. It is highly contagious and on a pathway to becoming the predominant strain. This puts many populations in a precarious position. A variant anywhere is a variant everywhere. The only way to get ahead and stay ahead of this virus and its variants is through vaccination. Yet globally, 7.2 billion people (90%) remain unvaccinated. The entire world should be further raising the alarm over this disturbing trend. Cases continue to climb in Brazil, which has surpassed a staggering total of 500,000 deaths thus far, just as the U.S. quietly surpassed 600,000. Across South America there continues to be a raging pandemic, with Colombia, Argentina and other countries experiencing spikes. Just as India and Nepal begin to recover some from devastating outbreaks, Africa is now experiencing an escalation that we all feared could happen. Countries like Namibia and Zambia are seeing swift upticks, signaling reason for alarm. This is what we feared would happen without an adequate supply of vaccines, resources for program implementation, and a coordinated strategy on a global scale. Less than 1% of the African population is vaccinated. Efforts to scale up production are underway, but will they be fast enough? Wealthier nations are sharing excess vaccine, but will it be too little too late? Our entire world community should be highly concerned, going all-in to mitigate and bring this pandemic to an end.
“Turning a blind eye and accepting this as the new normal will result in additional preventable tragedies. Globally, more than 10,000 people are still dying each day. Within six months of 2021, we surpassed the total COVID-19 death toll for the entire year of 2020. Remember, it was not long ago that the U.S. was the global leader in COVID-19 infections and deaths. And while it is great news that the U.S. has dramatically decreased infections to the point of reopening, the pandemic isn’t over. Unless further steps are taken, the 180 million Americans who are still not yet fully vaccinated will serve as a large reservoir for continued outbreaks and deaths going into the late summer, fall and winter.”
Dr. Tom Kenyon, M.D., M.P.H., is Chief Health Officer at Project HOPE and a 21-year veteran of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), where he served as director of the Center for Global Health.
About Project HOPE
With the mission to place power in the hands of local health workers to save lives around the world, Project HOPE is a global health and humanitarian organization operating in more than 25 countries. Founded in 1958, we work side-by-side with local health systems to improve health and support community resilience. We work at the epicenter of today’s greatest health challenges, including infectious and chronic diseases; disasters and health crises; maternal, neonatal and child health; pandemic preparedness and response; mental health for health workers; and the policies that impact how health care is delivered. For more information, visit www.ProjectHOPE.org and follow us on Twitter @ProjectHOPEorg.