World's worst COVID crisis unfolding in Brazil, where nothing seems to work

The continent-sized nation of 212 million is facing more Covid deaths and cases than ever, its hospitals overflowing, its policy in disarray, its vaccine supply severely limited. In addition to a president who scoffs at the disease, rejects masks and leaves each state on its own, the country plays host to a variant that’s more contagious and possibly deadlier.

Nothing better illustrates the bizarrely fractured nature of Brazil’s Covid policies — and how they’ve sowed confusion and anger and suffering — than three cities along a 140-mile roadway in the state of Sao Paulo, where three distinct approaches to the pandemic coexist. In one, practically anything goes; in another, it’s full lockdown; and in a third, mass vaccination is underway. Each is a mess, overrun by rampant illness and mired in a deep economic funk that shows no signs of ending anytime soon.

“What we’re living through now is much worse than what we had before,” said Denise Garrett, an infectious disease expert and vice president of the Sabin Vaccine Institute in Washington. “I see a huge storm forming in Brazil.”