In many parts of the world, authorities and experts are fretting over the onset of a coronavirus second wave. Yet in the Americas, there’s still no end in sight to the first. The virus is surging in various U.S. states, and the American death toll has eclipsed 120,000. On Thursday, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the real number of infected Americans is probably 10 times the 2.3 million official count.
But to the United States’ south, things are looking all the more concerning. Across Latin America, cases have tripled in the space of a month. The region, which is home to just 8 percent of the world’s population, accounted for about half of global coronavirus-related deaths in the past two weeks and surpassed the unfortunate milestone of 100,000 fatalities this week. According to a new projection by researchers, that figure could reach close to 400,000 by October.
The largest numbers are in Brazil and Mexico, the two most populous countries in the region. In both instances, governments in charge played down the scale of the threat and are desperately playing catch-up. Official counts of infections and coronavirus-linked deaths are probably lower than the actual numbers. Mass testing initiatives have struggled to get off the ground, while shutdown skeptics who suggested herd immunity could take root have little evidence to justify their optimism.
“We are doing something that no one else has done,” Pedro Hallal, a Brazilian epidemiologist, said to my colleagues. “We’re getting near the curve’s peak, and it’s like we are almost challenging the virus. ‘Let’s see how many people you can infect. We want to see how strong you are.’ Like this is a game of poker, and we’re all in.”
But it’s not just in Brazil and Mexico. Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala and Peru are each forecast to see more than 10,000 fatalities, according to Reuters. In Peru and Chile, political leaders who initially touted success in managing the pandemic now find their countries overrun by the virus and popular discontent mounting.
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