Latin America Becomes World’s New Coronavirus Epicenter 

With the death toll surpassing 100,000 deaths, Latin America has emerged as the world’s newest epicenter for the novel coronavirus pandemic. Brazil leads the region with 1,145,906 confirmed COVID-19 cases, including 52,645 deaths, making it the world’s second-highest number of cases in both categories after the United States, according to Johns Hopkins University. The nation recorded 39,436 new confirmed cases over the last 24-hour period on Tuesday, including more than 1,300 deaths.   The pandemic has reached such a crisis that a federal judge ordered President Jair Bolsonaro to wear a face mask in public or pay a fine of nearly $400 a day.  A man, wearing a protective face mask walks past a mural depicting a tug-of-war between health workers and President Bolsonaro, with a message that reads in Portuguese: “Which side are you on?”, Sao Paulo, June 19, 2020.The judge said Bolsonaro is violating local law in Brasilia aimed at slowing the spread of the virus. Bolsonaro has so far refused to cover his mouth at large political rallies where he comes in close contact with voters and children.  Bolsonaro has shrugged off the pandemic as just a “flu” and said anyone worried about the virus is just being neurotic.  Analysts attribute the rise in confirmed cases and deaths in the Latin American region to a combination of widespread poverty, widespread distrust of the government, and leaders, such as Bolsonaro and Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who have either downplayed or dismissed the true risk of the virus and failed to impose stringent lockdowns.   With the rising death toll in Latin America, the total number of deaths around the world now stands at more than 477,000, part of a combined 9.2 million cases.  Wearing face coverings, John Williams, right, and Jeff Lee play chess, June 23, 2020, in Santa Monica, Calif.US has most cases, deaths
The United States continues to lead the world in both categories with 2.3 million confirmed cases and 121,228 deaths.  According to The Washington Post, seven states — Arizona, Arkansas, California, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas — have reported their highest number of COVID-19 hospitalizations since the start of the pandemic.   Its top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, told a congressional panel Tuesday there will be more testing, not less, even after President Donald Trump asked health officials to slow down testing.   The White House has said the president wasn’t serious when he said more testing is the reason there are so many cases in the U.S. But Trump said Tuesday that he wasn’t joking.  From left to right, Dr. Robert Redfield, Dr. Anthony Fauci, ADM Brett P. Giroir and Dr. Stephen M. Hahn testify before a House Committee on Energy and Commerce on the Trump administration’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, June 23, 2020.Fauci also said he is cautiously optimistic a coronavirus vaccine will be available as early as the end of 2020. But he has previously said even if a vaccine is ready, there is no guarantee it will work or give any long-term protection.  Ban on American travelers The New York Times reports that European Union nations plan to stop U.S. citizens from crossing its borders because of what officials call the U.S. failure to control the virus.  The newspaper is basing its story on what it says are draft lists of who will be allowed to travel to the EU starting July 1. It says it confirmed the lists with two EU officials in Brussels, but the Times says none of the 27 EU members are obligated to adopt it.  The World Health Organization says the coronavirus pandemic is still growing even as countries start to ease lockdowns and other restrictions.    “The epidemic is now peaking or moving towards a peak in a number of large countries,” WHO emergencies chief Dr. Michael Ryan said.  People wait in a queue for the COVID-19 rapid antigen test in New Delhi, India, June 24, 2020.Several nations, including Germany, South Africa and India — which reports about 15,000 new cases of COVID-19 every day — are looking at reimposing lockdowns and preparing to treat an influx of new cases.   WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said it took three months for the world to confirm its first 1 million cases, but just eight days for the most recent 1 million to be identified.  “The greatest threat we face now is not the virus itself. It’s the lack of global solidarity and global leadership,” Tedros said without naming any specific country or leader he believes has failed.   Serbia’s Novak Djokovic returns the ball during an exhibition tournament in Zadar, Croatia, June 21, 2020.Tennis star, wife test positive
Meanwhile, tennis star Novak Djokovic said Tuesday he and his wife have tested positive for COVID-19 after he hosted a series of exhibition events he organized in his native Serbia and Croatia.  Three other players who participated in the matches also tested positive for the virus, which could threaten professional tennis’s hopes of resuming play this year. 

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