Jan 11, 2024 - Health

"Not acceptable": WHO says nearly 10,000 people died from COVID in December

A woman and child walk on the right side of the photo into a hospital door. A sign outside the door posted on the floor says masks are required. On the left, the word "emergency" in red.

A sign outside the emergency room tells visitors that masks are required to enter Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in Mission Hills, Calif., on Jan. 4 Photo: Hans Gutknecht/MediaNews Group/Los Angeles Daily News via Getty Images

Nearly 10,000 people died from COVID-19 in December, fueled by holiday gatherings, the World Health Organization said Wednesday.

The big picture: The JN.1 variant has been the dominant COVID variant, and its rise suggests it's either more transmissible or better at dodging immune systems than other strains that are floating around.

  • "The virus is still circulating, still changing, and still killing," said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director general.

By the numbers: December saw a 42% increase in COVID-related hospitalizations and a 62% increase in intensive care units admissions compared with November, per the WHO.

  • "However, these trends are based on data from less than 50 countries, mostly in Europe and the Americas," Tedros said. "It is certain that there are also increases in other countries that are not being reported."
  • "Although 10,000 deaths a month is far less than the peak of the pandemic, this level of preventable death is not acceptable," he added.

State of play: The WHO urged people to get vaccinated, test themselves, wear masks "where needed" and ensure crowded indoor spaces are properly ventilated.

  • Hospitals in the U.S. resumed mask mandates earlier this month in response to the COVID surge. States including Georgia, North Carolina and Texas have reported increases in respiratory illnesses, some of which are straining hospitals.
  • "We continue to call on governments to maintain surveillance and sequencing, and to ensure access to affordable and reliable tests, treatments and vaccines for their populations," Tedros said.

Go deeper: New COVID strain quickly becomes most dominant in U.S.

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