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Cemetery workers carry a coffin during the burial of a COVID-19 victim at the Sao Joao municipal cemetery in Porto Alegre, Brazil, on March 26. Photo: Silvio Avila/AFP via Getty Images

Brazil confirmed more than 4,000 COVID-19 deaths in a 24-hour period for the first time on Tuesday, the health ministry announced.

Why it matters: A surge in cases and deaths, driven in part by relaxed mitigation measures and a more contagious local variant, has overwhelmed the country's health system.

  • Coronavirus patients are occupying more than 90% of ICU beds in most Brazilian states.

Of note: Brazil is on track to overtake the U.S. record for the seven-day average for COVID-19 deaths set in January (3,285), possibly by next week, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington predicts.

  • Brazilian doctor Miguel Nicolelis, a professor at Duke University who's tracking the virus, compared Brazil’s healthcare system situation to "a nuclear reactor that has set off a chain reaction and is out of control, per Reuters.
  • "It’s a biological Fukushima," Nicolelis said.

By the numbers: Brazil's health ministry said Tuesday it confirmed 4,195 COVID-19 deaths and 86,979 new cases in the last 24 hour-period.

  • The country has recorded more than 336,940 deaths and 13.1 million cases since the pandemic began. Only the U.S. has confirmed more deaths and cases.
  • Sao Paulo state, Brazil’s most populous, recorded nearly 1,400 deaths on Tuesday. Health officials said the figure was so high partly because of delayed counting due to the Easter holiday, AP noted.

The big picture: Tuesday's grim record comes as President Jair Bolsonaro continues to push back against social distancing, masks and lockdowns.

  • "The fact is the anti-lockdown narrative of President Jair Bolsonaro has won," Miguel Lago, executive director of Brazil's Institute for Health Policy Students, told AP.
  • "Mayors and governors are politically prohibited from beefing up social distancing policies because they know supporters of the president, including business leaders, will sabotage it."
  • Economy Minister Paulo Guedes said Tuesday that he believes Brazil "could be back to business" in two to three months, per Reuters.
  • The country's inoculation effort has also been slowed by supply shortages. "The country dragged its feet last year as the world raced to secure vaccines, slowing the launch of a national immunization program," Reuters noted.

Go deeper: Brazil becomes 2nd country to surpass 300,000 coronavirus deaths

Editor's note: This article has been updated with more details, including the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation's forecast.

Go deeper

Updated Apr 12, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Health: The warning signs of a longer pandemic — CDC director: Answer to Michigan COVID-19 surge is "to close things down."
  2. Vaccines: Former FDA chief offers reality check on vaccine passports.
  3. Economy: Jobs growth could be curbed by demands for higher wages.
  4. World: Facebook to push notifications about vaccine eligibility to 20 countries outside of the U.S. — Brits flock to pubs for first time in months as U.K. lockdown eases.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.
Apr 7, 2021 - Health

CDC: 80% of teachers, school staff received at least one shot by end of March

A teacher helps a student at Gartfield Elementary School in Oakland, California. Photo: Jessica Christian/The San Francisco Chronical via Getty Images

Nearly 80% of teachers, school staff and childcare workers had received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine by the end of March, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday.

What they're saying: “Our push to ensure that teachers, school staff, and childcare workers were vaccinated during March has paid off and paved the way for safer in-person learning,” said CDC director Rochelle Walensky.

Apr 6, 2021 - Health

Gov. Greg Abbott bans use of vaccine passports in Texas

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott speaking in Austin in May 2020. Photo: Lynda M. Gonzalez-Pool/Getty Images

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed an executive order on Tuesday that bans state government and some private business from requiring coronavirus vaccine passports to access services.

Why it matters: Texas is the latest state to prohibit coronavirus immunization credentials as Republican governors rally against the proof of vaccination in the name of personal freedom and privacy. Such records could possibly speed international travel and economic reopening plans.