COVID-19 Takes Aim at Brazil's Poor

 An aerial view of the graveyard where COVID-19 victims were buried in Sao Paulo, Brazil on April 13, 2020. Image: Jose Antonio de Moraes/Anadolu Agency/Getty
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An aerial view of the graveyard where COVID-19 victims were buried in Sao Paulo, Brazil on April 13, 2020. Image: Jose Antonio de Moraes/Anadolu Agency/Getty

Researchers in Brazil puzzling over the country’s higher-than-expected death rate believe COVID-19 cases are 12 times higher than the government’s number, with inadequate and slow testing clouding the counts, Reuters reports.

Particularly at risk: Brazil’s poor, with 14 million people crowded into favelas lacking basic sanitation where other diseases—including tuberculosis and Zika—have flourished. The Guardian chronicles their plight.

Meanwhile, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who has belittled social distancing efforts and dismissed COVID0-19 as a “little flu,” has descended into a war of words with Brazil’s low-key health minister, Luiz Henrique Mandetta, whose contrasting matter-of-fact advocacy for social distancing has put him at odds with his boss, according to the AP.

While US Talk Turns to Reopening, Experts Say Not So Fast

On the US front, President Trump expressed his intent to form a new pandemic advisory council, NPR reports—this one stocked with economic and administration officials. The short list, according to Fox News, includes Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, and White House advisers Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump.

But in an eye-opening press conference yesterday, Trump asserted that he alone will be calling the shots on when to reopen, The Washington Post reports—after weeks of deflecting responsibility to governors. Governors on both coasts banded together with plans to jointly weigh when restrictions should be lifted, setting up a new policy battle.

But public health experts warn the US is not close to ready to contemplate a return to normal, given the high percentage of positive results from COVID-19 tests, as Caitlin Rivers, a senior scholar at the Center for Health Security at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, emphasized in a press conference last week.

On the Brink of the Nightmare

Other countries are just on the brink of their nightmare, as a New York Times editorial notes—including many of the world’s most vulnerable countries in Africa and the Middle East.
As cases climb in many countries on the African continent—first Egypt, now Nigeria, South Sudan, Kenya—the fear is that the virus will be impossible to control in densely packed areas.
The potential impact in places like Kibera, an informal settlement outside Nairobi, is staggering to contemplate. Nichole Sobecki shows how people there are doing what they can to prepare in a powerful National Geographic photo essay. With no safety net and little chance of social distancing, she writes, “Kibera’s alleys still are bustling not for lack of knowledge of COVID-19, but for lack of options as to how to defend against it.”

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