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Dr. Tom Kenyon Urges Global Commitment, All-In Local Action in COVID-19 Fight

Infectious disease expert notes signs of COVID-19 progress, but underscores out-of-control state at global level.

Bethesda, MD, USA (27 April 2021) — As the COVID-19 pandemic surges in some global regions while mitigation advances in others, Dr. Tom Kenyon, chief health officer at Project HOPE and Former Director of the Center for Global Health at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), issued the following updates and public message:

“I am a doctor, not an alarmist, but I must ask: Are we headed for a perfect storm? We can only say with any confidence what the data is telling us all: The global COVID-19 pandemic is spiraling out of control more than ever. Nearly one and a half years into the pandemic, last week again marked a new record in weekly cases – 5.7 million worldwide! And global mortality increased for the sixth consecutive week. While our world needs relief, the pandemic is escalating. This is a global calamity that can only be solved through global commitment and local action. 

“Some nations are making fragile progress, including the U.S. where one-third of adults are now fully vaccinated, and vaccines are available for everyone who can access them. Globally, we are approaching one billion doses being administered, but only 0.3 percent have been in low-income countries. We need to remind ourselves: The more this virus proliferates around the world, the more difficult it becomes to control it at home. The more variant strains predominate – which are more contagious, as is happening in this country – the higher the percentage of the population we need to vaccinate in order to achieve herd immunity. When communities or countries have a false sense of security and relax on evidence-based control measures, spikes in new cases inevitably occur. Again, we see new clusters of disease and death follow whenever and wherever people are gathering and fail to use masks and maintain physical distancing. 

“In the U.S., there are disturbing trends that progress has stagnated at around 55,000 cases and 700 deaths per day, a death toll equivalent to the fatal crashes of five 737 passenger airplanes at full capacity – every day. What’s worrisome is that we see the rate of vaccination also slowing down. This warrants total recommitment to public health and safety precautions as we continue to vaccinate. We need to aspire to reach zero cases and zero deaths.

“We know from experience with other vaccination programs that reaching the first 50 percent of a population is the easier part. The second 50 percent gets tougher. Here, we face more pockets of hesitancy and difficult-to-reach vulnerable populations, and that’s where the major health inequities come into play. The most important public message is: Get vaccinated as soon as you have access. Uphold safety guidelines like wearing a mask, maintaining a safe distance from others, and washing your hands. This is not just a public health issue. It’s a tremendous service to yourself, your children, your coworkers, and your country.”

About Project HOPE: 
Project HOPE is a global health and humanitarian relief organization that is committed to placing power in the hands of local health care workers to save lives across the globe. Read more at ProjectHOPE.org.

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