Much of the world is seeing coronavirus cases fall. But Brazil’s outbreak is worse than ever.
Terrence McCoy 9 hrs ago

RIO DE JANEIRO —The senior health official looked into the camera, eyes wide. He had a message for those who wouldn't stop partying, wouldn't wear a mask, wouldn't take the coronavirus seriously.

We have no ICU beds for your mother,” Rond?nia state Health Secretary Fernando M?ximo said. “We have no ICU beds your father, your aunt, your son, your girlfriend. We have no ICU beds for you.”

On the opposite end of the country, more than 1,000 miles away, Santa Catarina state Health Secretary Andr? Motta had a similar warning: “We are reaching capacity!” And in the northeast: “Our health system will reach capacity and Brazil will be in chaos in two weeks,” Bahia state Gov. Rui Costa said.

While much of the world is using restrictions and vaccines to try to tame the coronavirus, Brazil’s outbreak is worse than it has ever been. Deaths have hit a new high, averaging 1,208 per day over the past week. Public hospital occupancy is peaking. Health systems in more than half the country’s 26 states are at or near capacity. And a highly transmissive and potentially more dangerous variant is spreading nationwide.

From the earliest days, the severity of Brazil’s outbreak has set the country apart from its peers. Under the chaotic leadership of President Jair Bolsonaro, the country has been consumed by internal divisions, set upon by medical quacks, unable to pull itself out from the abyss. More than a quarter million Brazilians are now dead, a toll surpassed only by the United States. The country’s vaccination campaign is bogging down in shortages and delays.

“In this scenario, if nothing is done, by March people will be fighting for both hospital beds — and graves in the cemetery,” said Domingos Alves, the director of the Health Intelligence Laboratory at the University of S?o Paulo in Ribeir?o Pr?to. “We are going to need to open new graveyards to bury the bodies.”

Health analysts warn that the global implications are significant. Brazil has shown a capacity to spawn new, potentially more dangerous mutations of the coronavirus. The variant known as P.1, which was discovered earlier this year, has stampeded the Amazonian city of Manaus, leading to more deaths in January and February than in all of 2020.

“If Brazil does not control the virus, it will be the largest open laboratory in the world for the virus to mutate,” said Miguel Nicolelis, an epidemiologist and neuroscientist at Duke University. “It could not only be the epicenter of the pandemic, but the epicenter of the dissemination of more lethal and infectious variants. It’s in the interest of the entire planet.”...