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Epidemiological Alert: Organization of healthcare services in the context of high respiratory virus circulation including SARS-CoV-2, 21 January 2022

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In the context of the increase in COVID-19 cases in the Region of the Americas, along with the high circulation of other respiratory viruses, there has been an observed increase in the burden on healthcare systems and services. In this respect, the Pan American Health Organization / World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) recommends Member States to take measures to adequately prepare health services to cope with a high influx of patients, including maintaining supplies, effectively managing patients and resources, and mitigate absenteeism by protecting healthcare workers' health.

Background

A new wave of COVID-19 has been observed in several countries in the Region of the Americas since December 2021, with many cases reported in a very short period. Since epidemiological week (EW) 51 of 2021, the number of new cases each week in the Region of the Americas have almost doubled, from 1.7 million new cases in EW 51 of 2021, to 3.4 million new cases in EW 52 of 2021, to 6.2 million new cases in EW 1 of 2022. In EW 2 of 2022, a total of 8.2 million new cases were reported in the Region, marking the highest number of weekly cases reported during the entire pandemic.

Furthermore, the substantial increase in cases since the end of 2021 has been observed across all four subregions in the Region of the Americas (Figure 1). Between 1 December 2021 and 14 January 2022, the COVID-19 doubling time (the amount of time for the number of cases to double) has been shortened to as little as 1.7-5 days in several countries (Figure 2).

To date, 41 countries and territories in the Americas have reported the detection of the SARSCoV-2 variant of concern (VOC) Omicron, contributing to the increase in new cases, and hospitalizations.