Against the backdrop of the 75th United Nations General Assembly, now underway virtually, the COVID-19 pandemic continues its global spread. The UN General Assembly adopted an omnibus resolution on the COVID-19 response, supported by 169 member states, which calls for “intensified international cooperation and solidarity to contain, mitigate, and overcome the pandemic and its consequences.” The resolution acknowledges the leadership role of the World Health Organization (WHO) in coordinating the global response – especially important given that nations across continents are confronting spikes in COVID-19 cases and managing new challenges.
Johns Hopkins University
At the same time, fears are increasing about a potential “twindemic.” With summer officially at an end in the northern hemisphere, health officials are bracing for the possibility that a severe flu season will compound the strain COVID-19 has placed on health systems. Public health organizations, including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and WHO, are recommending precautions, including stepped-up use of face coverings and flu vaccination, to avoid this dangerous scenario. However, with vaccine hesitancy on the rise and growing mistrust of official public health guidance, the public’s willingness to get a flu shot is uncertain. The impact of vaccine hesitancy on managing a twindemic is not yet known.
This week’s edition of Rabin Martin’s COVID-19 Briefing highlights the potential threat – and consequences – of concurrent COVID-19 pandemic and influenza outbreaks. How will health systems be able to cope with a potential influx of flu patients if they are buckling under the pressures of COVID-19? How can we better prepare for and avoid health system breakdowns? Please find our earlier COVID-19 Briefings here.
979,388 deaths attributed to the disease, globally.On Tuesday, September 22, the U.S. surpassed 200,000 deaths – the most of any nation. The U.S. continues to lead in global cases, with its 6,954,456 cases accounting for over a quarter of global burden. Over the past week, cases have been on the rise in 20 states, including those that had been tracking downwards for months, like New Jersey and New York.
COVID-19 is spiking across several European countries and policymakers are reacting with increased urgency. On Tuesday, September 22, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a new series of control measures for England, including curfews for pubs and restaurants and expanded mask mandates. In France, regulations require masks in all public places across Paris, limit visits to elder homes in Bordeaux, and ban the sale and consumption of alcohol on the streets after 8 p.m. in Marseilles.
South Africa, with more than 665,000 cases, has nearly half the total number of COVID-19 cases in Africa, significantly more than any other country on the continent. And in Asia, India is expected to become the world’s hardest-hit country in the coming weeks; more than 5.6 million COVID-19 cases have been confirmed.
In Latin America, Argentina, one of the countries with the lowest incidence rates in the Spring, is becoming a new hotspot of COVID-19 infections, with test positivity rates exceeding 40 percent in recent weeks. The surge brings the country’s total number of infections to over 660,000. Brazil and the U.S. continue to account for the largest number of new cases and deaths in the region of the Americas.
In the U.S., testing efforts have expanded and the country set a record on Saturday, September 19, with over one million tests performed in one day. Nevertheless, public health experts are calling for even more testing, arguing that six to ten million tests per day are required to control the epidemic. The number of positive results remains high, with the U.S. continuing to report around 40,000 new infections daily. Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that the U.S. needs to reduce the number of new infections to below 10,000 a day before flu season begins or risk contending with the potentially devasting consequences of dual viruses. Dr. Robert Redfield, Director, CDC, also noted concerns about a possible “twindemic,” cautioning that the country might face “the worst Fall, from a public health perspective, we’ve ever had.”
As colder weather sets in throughout the northern hemisphere, driving people indoors, the risk of transmission for respiratory viruses such as COVID-19 and the flu rises. With COVID-19 uncontrolled and the flu likely to spread widely, more people may experience dual infections. According to a U.K. study, those infected with both COVID-19 and influenza had a greater mortality risk.
There are positive lessons to be learned from South Africa. Coming out of winter, the country is being praised for virtually eliminating the flu. Strict lockdown measures against COVID-19, coupled with mask mandates, travel restrictions, and school closures, have contributed to lessening the burden of both COVID-19 and the flu. “What happened was completely unprecedented and unexpected in that…we just didn’t have a flu season this year in South Africa,” said Dr. Cheryl Cohen, Co-Head, Centre for Respiratory Disease and Meningitis at South Africa’s National Institute of Communicable Diseases.
Global COVID-19 Cases (Johns Hopkins University)
Rabin Martin at UNGA
September 30, 9:00 am ET
On the occasion of the 75th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), please join us for a conversation with Dr. Heidi Larson, Director, The Vaccine Confidence Project, and Dr. Peter Piot, Director, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, on the state of the COVID-19 pandemic. Rabin Martin CEO Dr. Jeffrey L. Sturchio will moderate the discussion on lessons learned from the past eight months and predictions on what lies ahead – addressing issues such as equity in care and treatment and the impact of misinformation on vaccine confidence. Please register here.
From the Experts
“If we’re talking about what do you do as a government right now [about COVID-19 communications], you get out early and often [on] as many channels as possible, so that people turn to you first and not to Facebook for information.”
Dr. Heidi Tworek, Associate Professor, University of British Columbia,
Friday, September 18
“The idea of 200,000 [COVID-19] deaths is really very sobering, and in some respects, stunning.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease
Tuesday, September 22
“We must be guided by science and tethered to reality. Populism and nationalism have failed. Those approaches to contain the virus have often made things manifestly worse.”
António Guterres, Secretary-General, United Nations
Tuesday, September 22
“Rarely has the whole of humanity faced such an imminent and common threat [as COVID-19]. We must leave our differences and disagreements aside…[and] renew our collective commitment to multilateralism…We, the peoples of the United Nations, can achieve this.”
Volkan Bozkir, President, 75th UN General Assembly
Tuesday, September 22
“I urge countries around the world to prepare for a coronavirus vaccine, but also to remain realistic, knowing that these preparations do not replace everything else we must do to save lives today.”
Dr. Carissa Etienne, Director, Pan American Health Organization
Wednesday, September 23
What We’re Reading
- An Expert’s Take on What the U.S., U.K. Did Wrong In COVID-19 Communications — And What Others Did Right – Rebecca Robbins, Damian Garde, and Adam Feuerstein, STAT News
- How We Survive the Winter: The Coming Months of the Pandemic Could Be Catastrophic. The U.S. Still Has Ways to Prepare. – James Hamblin, The Atlantic
- One Virus, Two Americas: How Federalism Both Saved and Doomed the United States – Ashish Jha, Foreign Affairs
- Kenya Braced for The Worst. The Worst Didn’t Happen. Why? – Eyder Peralta, National Public Radio
- How Pinterest Beat Back Vaccine Misinformation — And What Facebook Could Learn from Its Approach – Erin Brodwin, STAT News
- BAME Britons Still Lack Protection from COVID, Says Doctors’ Chief – Haroon Siddique, The Guardian
Reports from International Governments and Bodies
- WHO COVID-19 Information and Guidance
- WHO Weekly Epidemiological Update: September 21
- WHO Weekly Operational Update: September 18
- CDC Coronavirus Resource Page
- COVID-19 Health Systems Response Monitor
- NCD Alliance COVID resources relevant to NCDs
Funding and Policy Trackers
- International Monetary Fund Policy Tracker
- Kaiser Family Foundation Coronavirus Policy Tracker
- U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation Corporate Aid Tracker
- Devex Interactive Funding Tracker
Resource Pages and Market Research Literature
- JAMA Resource Center
- The Lancet COVID-19 Resource Centre
- 2019 Novel Coronavirus Research Compendium (NCRC)
- National Academy of Medicine COVID-19 News and Resources
- WIPO COVID-19 IP Policy Tracker
- The COVID Tracking Project
- PharmaIntelligence: Coronavirus – What will the Impact Be?
- Health Affairs Resource Center
- STAT News COVID-19 Tracker
- Global Health NOW’s COVID-19 Expert Reality Check
- International Association of National Public Health Institutes COVID-19 Resources
- Center for Strategic and International Studies The Reopening and Take as Directed Coronavirus Crisis Update Podcast
- Primary Health Care Performance Initiative Forum
- U.S. Global Leadership Coalition COVID-19 Issue Briefs
- Prevent Epidemics Weekly Science Review
- COVID-19 Watch Weekly Updates
For more information or should you have any questions, please contact us.
About Rabin Martin
Rabin Martin is a global health strategy firm working at the intersection of private sector capabilities and unmet public health needs. Rooted in our mission to improve health for underserved populations, we design strategies, programs and partnerships that both deliver public health impact and drive business results. We leverage our deep knowledge and networks across a wide range of geographies and health areas to develop tailored solutions for every client engagement. We have helped many clients create bold global health initiatives and innovative multi-sector partnerships. Our specific areas of expertise include infectious disease and vaccines, non-communicable diseases, rare diseases, maternal and child health, and universal health coverage. Our clients and partners include multinational health care companies, multilateral institutions, government agencies, large foundations and leading NGOs. Rabin Martin is part of the Omnicom Public Relations Group.
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