Nearly 10,000 people died of COVID-19 last month, the World Health Organization warned Wednesday, noting the rising danger of the virus nearly four years after the pandemic’s onset.
Citing holiday gatherings and cooler weather, WHO head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that in December COVID hospitalizations increased by 42 percent in nearly 50 countries, mostly in Europe and the Americas.
“Although 10,000 deaths a month is far less than the peak of the pandemic, this level of preventable deaths is not acceptable,” Tedros told reporters in Geneva, according to The Associated Press.
The JN.1 variant of the virus is now the most prominent, he said. JN.1 is a subvariant of omicron, meaning current vaccines are still effective.
WHO technical lead for COVID Maria Van Kerkhove pointed to an increase in other respiratory diseases like flu, rhinovirus and pneumonia, as well as COVID-19.
“We expect those trends to continue into January through the winter months in the northern hemisphere,” she said.
Rising rates of the diseases has brought on fears of a “tripledemic,” with the flu, COVID-19 and RSV surging at the same time.
COVID-19 hospitalizations increased by about 20 percent over the last week of December in the U.S., the most recent week Centers for Disease Control data is available. Deaths and emergency room visits related to the virus each increased by about 12 percent over the same period.
The virus is most prevalent in the Midwest and Northeast, according to CDC data, with hot spots throughout Appalachia, upstate New York and western Ohio.
Since Thanksgiving, about 1,400 people a week on average have been dying because of COVID-19.
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