Coronavirus Briefing: What Happened Today

A conversation with our Brazil bureau chief.,


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Brazil recently surpassed 500,000 official Covid deaths, the world’s second-highest total behind the U.S. About 1 in every 400 Brazilians has died from the virus, but many experts believe the true death toll may be higher. The virus situation there is not easing, with an average of nearly 70,000 new cases per day.

To learn more, we spoke to Ernesto Londono, The Times’s Brazil bureau chief.

The last time we spoke was mid-April, when Brazil’s average death toll was the highest in the world. What’s happened since then?

March and April were the peak months in terms of the hospital system coming under enormous strain. Since then, the number of daily infections and the number of deaths remains staggeringly high. We’re talking about daily death tolls that have ranged from 1,500 to 2,500. So lower than the peak period we saw earlier this year where you were exceeding 4,000 deaths a day, but clearly, we’re still very much in the grip of a raging outbreak.


Credit…The New York Times

What’s the latest on the variants?

There was a consensus that the Gamma variant vastly accelerated contagion earlier this year, and it played a pivotal role in pushing Brazil’s health system to the brink of collapse. There have been a number of cases that have been conclusively traced to the Delta variant in a few parts of the country, but Brazil doesn’t have the capacity, or the political will, to have a far more aggressive sequencing program. So by the time we have the first glimmers of where the variants are changing the dynamics of the virus, it’s too late to do something about it.


Credit…The New York Times

How is the vaccination campaign?

It’s ramping up, but it’s still very slow and it’s still very disorganized. About a third of the population has received at least one dose, and less than 12 percent are fully vaccinated.

There’s also an interesting phenomenon happening in that people are being choosy about which vaccine they want. So Brazilians show up to vaccine locations, and when they learn that the only vaccine on offer is the Chinese vaccine, many have just been taking a pass and seeing if they can find a different vaccine later on. There are also millions of Brazilians who are not getting their second vaccine doses.

What’s daily life like?

What I see when I ride my bike around town, or do my reporting, is a striking sense of business as usual. Public transportation is jam-packed — people in buses are pressed together like sardines, commuting to work. Restaurants are doing very good business in many parts of Rio, where I live, and people are walking around without masks. So, I think for a large share of the population, there’s just kind of a sense that the pandemic is over, or at the very least, they’re not going to let it interrupt their daily lives.

How’s the political situation?

Heated. There is a growing confrontation between the government and the opposition, which has taken steps in the past few weeks to try to take President Bolsonaro and his cabinet to task for their handling of the pandemic. There’s been a special committee in Congress investigating the government’s response, and that has really increased the political polarization.

And I’m increasingly seeing people become angry and disgusted enough by the status quo that they’re willing to take to the streets. This coming Saturday, we’ll have the third round of street protests we’ve seen in recent weeks. And unlike other protests in the past in Brazil, which have tended to have sort of festive flair, there’s a real sense of rage in these latest protests. The term that many demonstrators have rallied around to criticize their president is “genocide,” which is obviously a very loaded term, but it gives you a sense of just how angry people are and how wronged they feel by their government.


The pergolas at Casa La Femme in the West Village.Credit…Clay Williams for The New York Times

As life begins to return to normal in New York City, officials and businesses are trying to figure out the future of outdoor dining.

Outdoor structures were a big hit during the pandemic, as thousands of restaurants got quick clearance to set up tables on streets and sidewalks. Now, the city government is working on the complicated process of making the initiative permanent.

The Times restaurant critic Pete Wells offered up suggestions for city planners, nonprofit organizations and architects planning the third wave of outdoor meals.

“Thoughtful regulations can ensure that the exuberant and life-affirming creativity of the past year will continue; overly strict ones could enforce a numbing sameness,” he wrote.

Pete recommends the city institute low or sliding fees and simple forms for permits to keep it accessible for all restaurants.

Restaurants, Pete wrote, are “already skilled at creating private environments that make paying customers feel lucky to be inside their four walls. Now they need to create environments that make noncustomers feel lucky to be their neighbors.”

  • At-home rapid virus tests may still be useful for vaccinated people worried about sniffles, possible exposures or visits with vulnerable loved ones.

  • The rich and famous will have to show their vaccine cards when they travel to Sun Valley, Idaho, for an event known as the “summer camp for billionaires,” Joe Pompeo reports in Vanity Fair.

  • The African Union is pushing the European Union to amend its digital travel pass to include Covishield, a vaccine used in many low-income countries.

  • In Abu Dhabi, the U.A.E. capital, unvaccinated residents older than 15 will not be able to access most public places after Aug. 20.

  • The U.S. will start sending millions of doses to Peru, Pakistan and Honduras.

See how the vaccine rollout is going in your county and state.

The last 15 months have been a battle as we chose to follow C.D.C. guidelines despite Alabama’s disregard for the pandemic. We’ve lost friends, felt isolated from our religious congregation, and have learned to ignore the stares and ridicule for our mask-wearing choices. It’s been tough on all of us but especially our kids. School starts in August and I am sending my kids back because they’re behind, they’ve become a bit agoraphobic, and they crave socializing and learning in a classroom. Yet I know this year no one will be wearing masks. I am praying the vaccine gets approved for children 5 to 11. This constant anxiety for my children’s safety has been exhausting and lonely.

— Jennifer Waldo-Speth, Alabaster, Ala.

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