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UN Chief Laments ‘Agonizing Milestone’ of 1 Million COVID-19 Deaths

Relatives mourn during the funeral of their family member at the burial area provided by the government for victims of COVID-19 at Pondok Ranggon cemetery complex, as the outbreak continues in Jakarta, Indonesia, Sept. 24, 2020.…
Relatives mourn during the funeral of their family member at the burial area provided by the government for victims of COVID-19 at Pondok Ranggon cemetery complex, as the outbreak continues in Jakarta, Indonesia, Sept. 24, 2020.…

The number of people killed by COVID-19 has surpassed 1 million, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center, which put the total number of infections worldwide at more than 33 million.

Lamenting what he called “an agonizing milestone,” United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on the world to overcome the challenge presented by the pandemic and to learn from past mistakes made at the outset.

“Responsible leadership matters,” Gutteres said. “Science matters. Cooperation matters — and misinformation kills.”

COVID-19 is the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, which is believed to have originated in Wuhan, China, late last year.

As the pandemic reached the grim milestone, a World Health Organization (WHO) official said the actual toll is probably higher.

FILE - Coffins with the bodies of victims of coronavirus are stored waiting for burial or cremation at the Collserola morgue in Barcelona, Spain, Apr. 2, 2020.

"If anything, the numbers currently reported probably represent an underestimate of those individuals who have either contracted COVID-19 or died as a cause of it," Mike Ryan, the WHO's top emergencies expert, said at a briefing in Geneva.

The one million fatalities are among the more than 33.2 million people around the world who have been sickened by the disease, and there are growing signs that many nations are about to experience a second wave of the outbreak, especially the United States, which leads the world with over 7.1 million total cases, including over 205,000 deaths.

FILE - A caution tape is put up around the playground at Public School 33 following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, Sept. 27, 2020.

Officials in New York City, the initial epicenter of the pandemic in the United States in March and April, are reporting a surge of new COVID-19 cases across the city after several months of decreasing numbers. Officials are especially concerned with eight neighborhoods in the Brooklyn and Queens boroughs, some of them home to large Orthodox Jewish communities. The increase comes as the city prepares to reopen its public schools to in-person instruction this week.

New York state Governor Andrew Cuomo also expressed concern Monday about a surge of new cases in two counties, Rockland and Orange, located north of New York City.

FILE - Dough Hassebroek walks his son Felix to Ardor School in Brooklyn, New York, Sept. 21, 2020.

A new study released Monday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed the rate of infections in children ages 12 to 17 is about twice that in children between the ages of five to 11. But the CDC study pointed out that the statistics were collected during a period when most students were not attending in-person classes, suggesting that the low number of confirmed cases in children result from a lack of testing.

The CDC also said young children often have mild symptoms, and may even be asymptomatic, which could also account for their low numbers of confirmed cases.

“The American people should anticipate that cases will rise in the days ahead,” U.S. Vice President Mike Pence warned on Monday.

More testing

U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday promised to make 150 million rapid COVID-19 tests available. He said the “massive and groundbreaking expansion” of testing would help protect the elderly in nursing homes, allow schools to reopen more safely, and help get the economy back on track.

President Donald Trump leaves after an event about coronavirus testing strategy, in the Rose Garden of the White House, Sept. 28, 2020, in Washington.

Trump had previously said he wanted to slow down testing because discovering more cases could make it appear the disease is spreading faster.

WHO announced that 120 million rapid diagnostic tests for the coronavirus will be made available to low- and middle-income countries.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said manufacturers Abbott and SD Biosensor are working in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to "make 120 million of these new, highly portable and easy-to-use rapid COVID-19 diagnostic tests available over a period of six months."