By Mauricio Savarese and David Biller | Associated Press
SAO PAULO – A thousand deaths a day.
Since the end of May, three months after the first coronavirus case reported in Brazil, has recorded an average of more than 1,000 deaths every day in the terrible highlands that have not been tilted down.
The country hit at least 75,000 deaths on Wednesday and is expected to report 2 million cases of COVID-19 on Thursday night.
Even as cases are reduced in the largest and most severe cities in Brazil, the virus is mounting in new locations throughout the largest countries in Latin America.
Experts blame President Jair Bolsonaro’s potential rejection of the virus and the lack of national coordination combined with scattershot responses by city and state governments, with some reopening earlier than recommended by health experts.
A temporary health minister who is not trained in the field leads the pandemic response. Bolsonaro himself was fed up with COVID-19 after repeatedly jeering at the recommendation of social distance and breaking the boundaries of local leaders in activity.
The death of Brazil around 7,000 COVID-19 in each of the last seven weeks is the same as several planes full of Brazilians that crash every day, former health minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta told The Associated Press.
“People become heartless,” Mandetta said. “When you say, ‘Yesterday there were 1,300 deaths,’ people said, ‘OK, then that didn’t go up. That’s 1,300 people the day before too. ‘”
Nearly 2 million cases in Brazil are second only to the United States and experts believe that the number is still below the count due to lack of testing. A model made by professors from several Brazilian academic institutions, based on the number of confirmed deaths, estimates that Brazil has had 10 million infections.
“The virus will be difficult to stop. But the milestone of these 2 million cases, which is highly underestimated, shows this could be different, “said Dr. Adriano Massuda, a health administration specialist and professor at Getulio Vargas Foundation, a university in Sao Paulo. “There is no national strategy for testing, no steps from the top, … too little effort to improve basic care so we find serious cases before they become too serious, no tracking.”
The virus has begun to reach cities and states that were previously spared, offsetting declines elsewhere. The number of deaths has receded in countries including Rio de Janeiro and Amazonas, where people are buried in mass graves in the capital, Manaus. In the past two weeks, 10 of the 26 Brazilian states and the Federal District have increased, with the average daily death toll in the two southern states doubling.
Bolsonaro has consistently underestimated the severity of COVID-19, said social measures that steer away from job and income sacrifices would ultimately be more dangerous than the virus itself, and called on supporters to encourage their local leaders to lift restrictions on activities. Many mayors and governors are struggling to defend it.
In Ribeirao Preto, a city in the state of Sao Paulo, protested shop owners on Wednesday demanding they be allowed to reopen. They surrounded the mayor’s car when he left City Hall, punched his window and cursed him.
Campinas, a city of 1.2 million people closer to the state capital, adopted quarantine measures earlier, but succumbed to political pressure and reopened trade on June 8, said Pedro de Siqueira, a member of the Campinas city council. The city center is filled with buyers like upside down ant nests, he said in an interview.
Two weeks later, the number of COVID-19 deaths tripled to 253, as did the number of confirmed cases, to 6,324. Intensive care beds were replenished with patients, prompting the mayor to reinstate trade restrictions on June 22, but allow offices and churches to continue operating.
“Campinas reopened prematurely and erroneously, supported by the state government,” said Siqueira, who is also a public health doctor, at the time. “This reopening was so powerful that Campinas had to step down, but only did it in part.”
Since then, the number of cases and deaths of Campinas has doubled. On Wednesday, the city extended the limit until 30 July.
Daniel Soranz, a researcher at the national biology institute run by the Fiocruz government, said Brazil’s west-center which includes an agricultural center would be the last region affected by the virus. And, looking at deaths from severe respiratory shortages, it seems that Brazil as a whole has begun to turn, he said.
“By the end of August, we must be in a much better place than today,” Soranz said.
In Sao Paulo, the most populous state in Brazil with 46 million inhabitants, the number of deaths has stabilized at a level slightly below its peak. At one of the capital’s funerals on Wednesday, Michelle Caverni buried her 88-year-old aunt, who died of COVID-19 and also suffered from pulmonary emphysema. On the same day a friend of Caverni buried her 57-year-old mother. He also died of COVID-19.
“Until you knock on your door, people are indifferent,” said Caverni, 40, a restaurant chef. “Yesterday there were 1,300 deaths due to COVID-19. Is that supposed to be a little? People say it’s only the media. I hear it every day at work. “
Most people only show moderate symptoms of COVID-19 and recover. Some, including older people or those who have old health problems, are more susceptible to severe illness, including pneumonia, or death.
Modeling by the University of Washington Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation estimates that Brazil’s death rate will reach nearly 200,000 in November, nearly closing the gap with the US. This estimate has a wide margin of error.
“We will see how this patient known as Brazil will behave until the end of the epidemic,” said Mandetta, who was fired by Bolsonaro as minister of health in April for supporting quarantine measures for the state governor.