Colombia’s Ministry of Health confirmed zero fatalities from COVID-19 Thursday, even though 26 fatalities from the disease occurred on previous days and added to the national total of 4,936.052. On Friday, 44 deaths were confirmed, 41 also registered to previous days. The death toll from the pandemic stands at 125,826. New cases increased slightly during the last 24 hours from 1,484 to 1,544. The number of persons still considered “active” with the virus dropped to 20,221.

Julián Fernández, director of Epidemiology and Demographics at the Ministry stated that Colombia is nearing pre-pandemic levels with mortality rates, but that the trend could reverse with the fourth wave of infection projected for October.  New cases of coronavirus infection have been on the decline for almost one month. Occupation of ICU units has also decreased since July 29. “At this moment in the country, for every person who is hospitalized in an ICU for COVID-19, whether confirmed or suspected, there are five non-Covid-19 patients,” he remarked.

Health Minister Fernando Ruíz also highlighted that pre-pandemic levels in mortality rates are a sign of an effective vaccine roll-out in persons age 60 or over. The National Vaccination Plan has administered more than 38 million doses, with close to 16 million immunized with double dose vaccines (Pfizer, Sinovac, AstraZeneca) or single dose by Janssen. In terms of those eligible for vaccines (persons age 12 and older), Colombia has reached immunity among 32% of the population, with 22 million – or 44% – still awaiting their second dose.

Bogotá leads in vaccinations in with 7 million doses applied, followed by Antioquia with 5.5 million, Valle del Cauca (3.25 M), Cundinamarca (2.26 M), and Santander (1.8 M).

The head of the health portfolio also authorized third booster shots of the Pfizer vaccine for persons age 70 and older. Following international guidelines, the booster should be given approximately six months after the second dose. The U.S pharmaceutical has justified boosters based on research from Israel that shows third doses restore COVID-19 immunity in seniors to 95%.

On Friday, the U.S commemorated more than 650,000 deaths from COVID-19 with an exhibition of white flags (see opening photo) placed in rows along the National Mall in Washington. The exhibition by artist Suzanne Brennan Firstenberg titled In America: Remember, will remain on display until the first week of October.