The World Health Organization (WHO) warned Tuesday that the coronavirus outbreak is “accelerating” and the world has yet to reach the peak of the pandemic.
“It took 12 weeks for the world to reach 400,000 COVID-19 cases. Over the weekend, there were more than 400,000 cases across the globe,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Tuesday during a news briefing.
More than 11.6 million cases have been confirmed since the outbreak began late last year with more than 540,000 deaths worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The U.S. leads the world in cases and deaths with more than 2.9 million confirmed infections and more than 130,000 deaths.
The warning from WHO came as the Trump administration officially moved to withdraw the U.S. from the United Nations’ health agency, breaking ties with the global health body in the middle of a pandemic. Withdrawal requires a year’s notice, so it will not go into effect until July 6, 2021, raising the possibility the decision could be reversed.
The White House for several months threatened to pull the U.S. out of the WHO, as President Trump repeatedly assailed the organization for alleged bias toward China and its slow response to the outbreak in Wuhan, China.
Tedros on Tuesday said a team of WHO experts will be traveling to China this week to identify the origin of COVID-19.
“The experts will develop the scope and terms of reference for a WHO-led international mission. The mission objective is to advance the understanding of animal hosts for COVID-19 and ascertain how the disease jumped between animals to humans,” Tedros said.
WHO officials also noted that while the number of deaths appears to have leveled off globally, some countries are seeing cases and deaths rise.
Mike Ryan, executive director of WHO’s Health Emergencies Program, said there are several possible explanations for the global drop in death, one being a lag in reporting. He said it’s possible we may see deaths rise again.
Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, warned on Tuesday the U.S. should not fall into “false complacency” because COVID-19 death rates have dropped.
“It’s a false narrative to take comfort in a lower rate of death,” Fauci said during a live streamed press conference hosted by Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.)
As infections have surged in Southern and Western states death rates have not increased. That may be due to younger adults now making up a higher percentage of new cases.