The COVID situation is grim in Brazil, as some new sets of numbers from the country's main health institute, Fiocruz, make clear. The BBC reports the country logged a record 1,972 COVID deaths Tuesday, pushing its total to 268,000—that's No. 2 in the world. New cases jumped 38% from the Tuesday prior to 70,000-plus, an increase pegged to the spread of the P1 variant there, which is thought to be two times more transmittable and can possibly reinfect those who have already contracted COVID. The ICUs in 15 state capitals, including Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, are at more than 90% capacity, and those in two cities have hit 100%. Among the ominous quotes from Fiocruz epidemiologist Jesem Orellana:
- "Brazil is a threat to humanity."
- "The fight against Covid-19 was lost in 2020 and there is not the slightest chance of reversing this tragic circumstance in the first half of 2021."
Vaccination figures are low, with just 4% of Brazilians having had their first shot. NPR reports that as of Tuesday the US' figure was 18.1%. As for how President Jair Bolsonaro is handling this situation, consider these remarks made last week after the country last Wednesday hit a then-high of 1,900 deaths. "Enough fussing and whining," Reuters quotes him as saying last Thursday. "How much longer will the crying go on? How much longer will you stay at home and close everything? No one can stand it anymore." Denise Garrett of Sabin Vaccine Institute in Washington sees reason for fussing: "Brazil makes me extremely worried," she tells the Washington Post. "The country that doesn’t control its outbreak is a risk for other countries in that it’s a breeding site for new variants." (Read more Brazil stories.)