GENEVA (AP) — The World Health Organization has an unwelcome but potentially life-saving message for the holiday season: Don’t hug.
To stop the spread of the coronavirus, WHO’s emergencies chief, Dr. Michael Ryan, said Monday that the “shocking” rate of COVID-19 cases and deaths, particularly in the U.S., mean that people shouldn’t get too close to their loved ones this year. That means with or without a mask on.
“The epidemic in the U.S. is punishing. It’s widespread," said Dr. Michael Ryan. "It’s quite frankly, shocking, to see one to two persons a minute die in the U.S. — a country with a wonderful, strong health system (and) amazing technological capacities,” he said.
Dr. Ryan called the pandemic “brutal” in the U.S., which accounts for about a third of all COVID-19 cases globally.
As of Tuesday morning, there were more than 67 million confirmed cases of coronavirus around the world since the pandemic started, and almost 15 million of those cases are in the U.S.
There are just over 1.5 million deaths from COVID-19 around the world, and almost 285,000 of them are in the U.S.
Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s technical lead on COVID-19, said most transmission happens among people who tend to spend a lot of time together sharing meals and indoor spaces, in workplaces or homes — but it’s sometimes hard to “disentangle” how exactly the virus was spread.
Added Ryan: “It’s a horrible thing to think that we would be here as the World Health Organization saying to people, ‘Don’t hug each other.’ It’s terrible.”