By Ciara Linnane, MarketWatch
The global case tally from the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 climbed above 5.5 million on Tuesday, as the World Health Organization warned of the possibility of an immediate “second peak” in infections during the current wave, if countries and local governments ease measures to contain the spread too soon.
Dr. Mike Ryan, WHO emergencies chief, offered the warning in an online briefing, as the Associated Press reported.
“We cannot make assumptions that just because the disease is on the way down now it is going to keep going down and we are get a number of months to get ready for a second wave,” said Ryan. “We may get a second peak in this wave.”
His warning comes after the U.S. Memorial Day holiday celebrations saw crowds gathering on beaches and in parks in many states (with notable images emerging from the Lake of the Ozarks resort area in Missouri), failing to observe social-distancing measures and other guidelines that public-health experts say are still essential to control the spread of the virus.
Media reported widely on the culture wars brewing across the U.S. between those who refuse to comply with safety measures, such as wearing face masks, and even claim the pandemic is not real, and those who are respecting guidelines. Social media reflected the divide in videos of individuals in some states brawling with store workers when asked to wear a mask, while in other states store associates were refusing to allow entrance to people wearing masks.
Former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, did wear a mask on a visit to a veterans memorial in Delaware and was careful to socially distance from a group of attending veterans.
Biden has pledged to observe all measures recommended by health experts, who have repeatedly cautioned Americans that reopening too soon would cause unnecessary suffering and death.
Dr. Deborah Birx, coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force, said she was “very concerned” about scenes of people crowding together over the weekend.
“We really want to be clear all the time that social distancing is absolutely critical,” she told ABC’s “This Week.” “And if you can’t social distance and you’re outside, you must wear a mask.”
Meanwhile, a group of public media companies, including the BBC, Deutsche Welle and CBC Radio-Canada, have said they will work to combat “the proliferation, particularly on social networks, of fake news” about COVID-19.
The U.S. death toll edged ever closer to 100,000 on Tuesday, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University. The U.S. has the highest death toll in the world at 98,294, and the highest case tally at 1.67 million.
The global case tally is 5.53 million, and at least 347,085 people have died. At least 2.3 million people have recovered.
Brazil has 374,898 cases and 23,473 deaths after another spike over the weekend. The White House said a Brazil travel ban will be moved forward to 11:50 p.m. Washington time.