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What We're Watching: Brazil's COVID battle, crimes against Asian-Americans

Brazil's healthcare system is on the verge of collapse: Brazil recorded more than 90,000 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, the country's highest daily caseload since the pandemic began. As the country grapples with the world's second highest death toll, even President Jair Bolsonaro, a COVID skeptic who has rejected masks and refused a vaccine, warned this week that Brazil is entering a "more aggressive phase" of the pandemic. Bolsonaro's refusal to take the virus seriously, and his attempts to stop state officials from enforcing lockdowns to curb the virus' spread, have led to a shambolic and fragmented pandemic response. That, in turn, has allowed the virus more time to mutate, giving rise to a new more contagious variant that is now ravaging the country, experts say. The country's sluggish vaccine rollout has only made things worse. Amid the chaos, Dr. Marcelo Queiroga, a cardiologist, was appointed Brazil's health minister this week, the country's fourth since the pandemic began. Queiroga said that he will need the president to grant him "full autonomy" to bring the country back from the abyss, but many analysts warn that it might be too late: Hospitals are nearing capacity in many states, ICU beds are scarce, and oxygen rationing has been rife, resulting in otherwise preventable deaths. Fiocruz, a Rio-based health institute, recently warned (Portuguese) that the crisis is "the biggest collapse of the hospital and health service in Brazil's history." While Bolsonaro appeared to defy gravity last year and maintain a steady approval rating, polls show that his star is falling: 54 percent of Brazilians now saying his handling of the pandemic has been "bad" or "awful." It doesn't help Bolsonaro's chances of making a comeback that the Supreme Court last week overturned the corruption conviction of popular leftist Luiz Inácio "Lula" da Silva, allowing the former president to run in Brazil's 2022 election.

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