Latin America and the Caribbean surpassed Europe on Friday to become the region with the most Covid-19 deaths.
The world's worst-hit region has recorded 213,120 fatal cases, 460 more than Europe. Over the last week, 44 percent of global deaths from Covid-19 -- 18,300 out of 41,500 -- happened in the region.
Latin America is also the region with the largest number of infections in the world with 5.3 million. More than half, some 2.9 million, are in Brazil, which has also recorded 98,500 deaths among its 212 million people.
Only the United States has been worse hit.
More than 160,000 people have died from virus in the US as President Donald Trump said he would unilaterally grant financial relief to Americans after talks with congressional Democrats stalled.
The grim milestone, which includes 10,000 deaths nationwide in the past nine days, comes as Americans and their political leaders remain divided over such issues as reopening schools, testing, business closures and mask orders.
Trump said he would issue an executive order suspending payroll taxes for all Americans through the end of this year and extending supplemental unemployment benefits if the White House could not reach a deal on a relief package with top Democrats in Congress.
Trump, speaking at a news conference at his golf property in Bedminster, New Jersey, made the vow after negotiations between the two sides broke down on Friday.
Covid-19 infections are rising in 20 US states, according to a Reuters analysis, as the center of the outbreak shifts from sunbelt states such as California, Florida and Texas to the Midwest.
City officials in Anchorage, Alaska, on Friday won a court ruling in favour of a ban on indoor restaurant dining after suing an eatery that defied an emergency order prohibiting the practice
Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker partially rolled back plans to reopen the state's economy, reducing the maximum number allowed at outdoor gatherings from 100 to 50.
US SCHOOLS REOPEN
Undeterred by the coronavirus, schools in several US states have reopened for in-person classes -- but some have already been hit by large quarantines of students and staff following fresh outbreaks.
In Mississippi -- the state with the country's highest positivity rate at 22 percent of everyone tested, sick or otherwise -- the Corinth School District has so far seen eight confirmed cases across several schools, according to officials.
As a result, over 100 people who came into close contact with them have been asked to quarantine, swiftly disrupting local authorities' plans for a return to normal.
The city of Corinth is located in Alcorn County where positivity rates are 25 percent and ICUs are full, according to the tracking site CovidActNow.
Health experts say that if the proportion of positive tests in a given location is above five percent, the virus is spreading rampantly.
Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves told Fox News the quarantine was in fact evidence things were working as they should.
"Those who want to attack everyone look at that as a negative, I actually look at it as a positive," he said.
"We've identified positive cases, we've contract traced those back and we're trying to protect those kids."
The district's troubles highlight the dangers of reopening schools, a key priority of Trump as he tries to kickstart the economy ahead of the election.
After pressure from the president, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last month issued new guidelines on how to open up classrooms.
It firmly weighed its recommendations in favour of in-person learning because of the negative impact of lockdowns on social development and mental health.
Data also shows distance-learning exacerbates educational attainment gaps between socioeconomic groups.
This goal is shared by outside experts including the American Academy of Pediatrics, but a major problem is a lack of clarity around when it is safe to reopen.
PUBLIC HEALTH APPROACH
Dr Anthony Fauci, the top US infectious diseases expert, said on Friday that an approved vaccine could end up being effective only 50-60% of the time, meaning public health measures will still be needed to keep the pandemic under control.
"We don't know yet what the efficacy might be. We don't know if it will be 50% or 60%. I'd like it to be 75% or more," Fauci said in a webinar hosted by Brown University. "But the chances of it being 98% effective is not great, which means you must never abandon the public health approach."
The pandemic has now claimed 721,902 lives since December when it first surfaced in China, according to a global tally compiled by AFP yesterday.
There have been nearly 19.5 million cases officially recorded in 196 countries and territories, with 11.5 million classed as recovered.
A huge spike of 61,537 new coronavirus patients in the last 24 hours has taken India's tally to 20,88,611, the Union Health Ministry said yesterday morning, adding that over 14.27 lakh patients have recovered so far.
Turkmenistan, which officially has no cases, has agreed to let the World Health Organization (WHO) carry out independent sampling of virus tests after it expressed "serious concern" over rising pneumonia cases there.
International sport continues to be affected by the virus despite many professional events restarting.
Organisers of the world cycling championships, set to be held in Switzerland next month, warned the event may be called off because of local health rules.