The Northern Hemisphere, which includes most of the world's advanced countries, is reeling from horrific spikes in new COVID-19 cases and winter isn't even here yet.
An alarmed World Health Organization (WHO) said these countries "are on a dangerous track" as the still raging COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated into a more fearsome second wave. WHO is distressed at the huge spike in COVID-19 case numbers even as hospitals are beginning to reach capacity ahead of winter.
″Too many countries are seeing an exponential increase in cases and that's now leading to hospitals and ICU running close or above capacity and we're still only in October," said WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
He urged the head of the government whose countries are being battered by surging cases to "course correct as quickly as possible."
"We are at a critical juncture in this pandemic, particularly in the Northern Hemisphere," he emphasized. "The next few months are going to be very tough and some countries are on a dangerous track."
Dr. Tedros said "now is the time to double down" and to take quick action for arising clusters.
"We urge leaders to take immediate action to prevent further unnecessary deaths, essential health services from collapsing and schools shutting again," said Tedros. "This is not a drill."
WHO data shows 42.1 million confirmed coronavirus cases and 1.4 million deaths since the pandemic began in January in China, as of Saturday. It listed more than 465,000 new cases worldwide on the same day.
The Americas (North and South America and Canada) and Europe are the most heavily hit regions, according to WHO data. There are 19.3 million cases in the Americas and 9.1 million in Europe. Together, these two regions account for 67% of total confirmed cases worldwide, said WHO.
Last week, WHO warned COVID-19 outbreaks in Europe have become "concerning." It said Europe continues to report a "rapid increase in cases and deaths." New cases jumped 25% from Oct. 13 to 20, said WHO.
France, the United Kingdom, Russia, the Czech Republic, and Italy accounted for more than half of all reported cases during this period, said the agency.
In the U.S., outbreaks taking hold in the Midwest have led to a significant spike in new cases. The U.S. set a world record of more than 83,000 new cases Friday -- the largest single-day tally during the entire pandemic.
Reacting to the record new cases, Dr. Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) at the University of Minnesota, warned this grim toll will keep increasing. He again said the U.S. is "just entering the darkest days" of the pandemic and is in for single day case totals in the six digits.
He partly blamed the historic rise on "pandemic fatigue." He wryly noted that while Americans appear tired of the virus, "the pandemic isn't tired of dealing with them."