The coronavirus pandemic is entering a "new and dangerous phase," the World Health Organization says, even as parts of the world are beginning to lower restrictions. Recent statistical milestones reportedly indicate that the outbreak is "worsening," even accounting for the rising availability of testing. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus is urging people everywhere to "focus on the basics" of virus prevention.
"We call on all countries and all people to exercise extreme vigilance," Ghebreyesus said on Friday, in a new release by the WHO. There have now been a total of 8.7 million case of COVID-19 worldwide, with the increasing growth driven mostly by the United States and Brazil, according to the numbers. On June 8, the WHO warned that the pandemic was "worsening" when 130,000 new cases were recorded that day. On Sunday, the organization recorded the highest number of new cases in a single day since the pandemic began: 183,020.
Many more terrifying numbers were included in the organizations 153rd coronavirus situation report, published on Sunday. It showed Brazil reaching over a million cases of the virus while the U.S. soared past 2.2 million. The U.S. is now approaching 120,000 total deaths from COVID-19 — a significant portion of the world's 461,000 in total. Brazil is in similar trouble, with nearly 50,000 total deaths.
While parsing all this data, cables news reporters could not help but note that the report came one day after President Donald Trump's campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where he praised his administration's handling of the virus while downplaying its significance in general. Most shockingly, the president called coronavirus testing a "double-edged sword," saying that he had asked members of his administration to "slow the testing down" because "when you do testing to that extent... you're going to find more cases."
White House officials rushed to reign in that rhetoric after the rally, with trade adviser Peter Navarro telling CNN that the comment was "tongue-in-cheek." Still, many people were inclined to take Trump at his word.
The WHO has stressed that large-scale testing is essential to mitigating the death toll and other effects of the coronavirus pandemic. That remains true even as the outbreak stretches on for months, since information on immunity and transmission is not complete in many cases. WHO regional director for Europe Hans Henri Kluge said that "preparing for the autumn is a priority now," adding: "we are not out of the woods."