The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the region is spiking fast. The death toll in Brazil, the worst-hit country in Latin America, passed 30,000 yesterday. Yet President Jair Bolsonaro continues to dismiss the threat and parts of the nation are rushing to lift restrictions. Churches and non-essential businesses in Rio de Janeiro are now allowed to reopen.
Similarly, Mexico reported its highest single-day spike in cases yesterday, but is nevertheless pushing ahead with plans to reopen some sectors of its economy, including the tourism industry.
The Pan American Health Organization, the World Health Organization's branch in the region, has warned against the prompt reopening, saying the epidemiological curve is "still rising sharply" in many areas. "This means that more people will be sick tomorrow than yesterday," said Dr. Carissa Etienne, the WHO's director for the Americas.
The WHO said Colombia, Chile, Peru, Haiti, Argentina and Bolivia are also reporting increases in cases, while the situation in Nicaragua is "very difficult situation to control."
The risk of the epidemic spiralling out of control is much higher in Latin America than in North America or Europe because of the region's huge inequalities and underfunded health systems that are simultaneously dealing with malaria, measles, dengue fever and many other diseases, Etienne said.
"There are far more people who cannot access appropriate quality health care than those who can," Etienne said, highlighting the plight of vulnerable indigenous populations, who have been hit by Covid-19 outbreaks after legal and illegal miners have brought the virus into the rainforest.
YOU ASKED. WE ANSWERED
Q: Do vitamin D levels affect your risk for coronavirus?
A: "To date, there is no evidence that very high vitamin D levels are protective against Covid-19 and consequently medical guidance is that people should not be supplementing their vitamin D levels beyond those which are currently recommended by published medical advice," wrote Robin May, director of the Institute of Microbiology and Infection at the University of Birmingham in the UK.
Vitamin D is important for healthy muscles, strong bones and a powerful immune system. But too much vitamin D can lead to a toxic buildup of calcium in your blood that can cause confusion, disorientation, heart rhythm problems, bone pain, kidney damage and painful kidney stones.
Send your questions here. Are you a health care worker fighting Covid-19? Message us on WhatsApp about the challenges you're facing: +1 347-322-0415.
WHAT'S IMPORTANT TODAY
Fauci hopes for vaccine breakthrough
The United States could have 100 million doses of one candidate vaccine for Covid-19 by the end of the year, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) said yesterday.
The plan is to manufacture doses of the vaccine, which is in development by the biotech firm Moderna, even before it is clear whether it works, Fauci said. That's so if it does work, it can be deployed quickly.
The AstraZeneca trial underway in the UK will follow a similar schedule. A handful of other vaccine studies should start just one to two months after that.
Ethnic minorities in UK face much higher Covid-19 risk
People from ethnic minority communities in the United Kingdom are up to 50% more likely to die with coronavirus than their white British peers, a new government review has found.
The results of the review mirror findings from the US, where black Americans have been dying at disproportionately high rates. The reasons for discrepancies seem similar in both countries. People from minority communities are more likely to live in urban areas, in overcrowded households, in deprived areas, and have jobs that expose them to higher risk. They are also more likely to have higher rates of underlying conditions.
Questions over hydroxychloroquine study
A study published in the medical journal The Lancet last month found that seriously ill Covid-19 patients who were treated with hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine were more likely to die or develop dangerous irregular heart rhythms.
The study poured cold water over the hopes for the drug and led to the WHO pausing trials of the drug because of safety concerns. But The Lancet is now saying it is aware that "important scientific questions" had been raised over the study, and that the journal has concerns about the data.
Could protests spark more coronavirus outbreaks?
Public health officials are worried about new outbreaks of the virus resulting from nationwide protests over the death of George Floyd.
US Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams told Politico he expected new outbreaks and the issue was discussed by the White House coronavirus task force. The US recorded more than 20,000 new Covid-19 cases yesterday.
Oklahoma State linebacker Amen Ogbongbemiga said in a tweet yesterday that he has tested positive for Covid-19 after attending a protest. While a majority of demonstrators nationwide have worn masks and face coverings, the large crowds have made it difficult to follow social distancing rules.
Italy is welcoming visitors again
European countries are beginning to ease some of their travel restrictions, opening up the possibility of summer holidays abroad.
Italy has today reopened its borders to travellers from other European countries, scrapping the mandatory 14 day quarantine. Germany has announced it would lift its blanket travel warning for 29 European countries from June 15, while the Dutch government said its citizens will be able to vacation in most European countries without having to quarantine upon return starting the same date.
As plans for summer vacation start taking more concrete plans, airlines are racing to find new ways to keep passengers healthy and hotel chains are finding out that safety is now the sexiest word in the business.
ON OUR RADAR
Coronavirus patients were among more than 100,000 people evacuated from low-lying coastal areas in India's western states as a cyclone advanced toward Mumbai on Wednesday. NASA and Fitbit received approval from the US Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday for ventilators designed to help Covid-19 patients. A midwife, a train driver and a store worker are British Vogue's latest cover stars. The fashion bible is paying homage to the "bravery and dedication" of frontline workers. The coronavirus pandemic has pushed Australia into recession for the first time in 29 years.Videoconferencing has become the tech industry's next big battleground, and one where it isn't that lonely at the top. Zoom is winning the first round, with revenues up 169%.'The new toilet paper:' Bikes are flying off shelves as people look for new ways to exercise.Building cars during the Covid-19 pandemic requires more than keeping workers in auto plants safe. Hundreds of supplier plants must stay safe and healthy, too. Last week proved how difficult that can be in the current environment.A Rohingya refugee has died in Bangladesh, the first Covid-19-related death at the world's largest refugee camp, the UN said.The University of Southern California plans to resume in-person classes for the fall semester starting August.
Love in the time of coronavirus
There are many benefits (and yes, also some downsides) to getting to know someone over video at a time when social distancing is the norm.
Bela Gandhi, founder and president of Smart Dating Academy, a dating coaching service in Chicago, said she'd actually like to see video become part of a process that gets single people from matching with a potential suitor to an in-person date.The way Gandhi explained it, the new protocols would be a four-step process.
"I call it my 'Get to the Date' plan," quipped Gandhi, who is nicknamed the "Fairy Godmother of Dating." "First is messaging, second is a quick, 10-minute phone chat. Assuming the phone chat goes well, the third step is a video date. Finally, step four would be in person."
"It's normal to feel very nervous or anxious about returning to work. And the key here really is to have an open dialogue with your employer." -- Kathryn Vasel, CNN Business senior writer
As workplaces around the country are reopening, some employees have big questions. CNN's Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta is joined by CNN Business Senior Writer Kathryn Vasel to discuss what to expect when you head back to work.
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