How the pandemic evolved in three hotbeds in the Americas

. Jul 21, 2020
How the pandemic evolved in three hotbeds in the Americas Illustration: André Chiavassa/TBR

The Americas region is the global epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, with five of the top 10 countries with the most Covid-19 confirmed infections in the world. To better understand the progress of this spread, we at The Brazilian Report have looked into data from three of the largest cities in the continent — the epicenters of the outbreak within the U.S., Brazil, and Mexico.[/restricted]

Mexico City

The Mexican capital is the country’s biggest coronavirus hotbed. Claudia Sheinbaum Pardo, the head of government in Mexico City, is an ally of President Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador but has kept the left-leaning populist leader at arm’s length. While AMLO minimized the impact of Covid-19 and didn’t shy away from kissing and hugging supporters, Ms. Sheinbaum Prado imposed strict isolation measures in the capital city.

Cases in Mexico City peaked midway through May. Since then, the number of new daily cases has remained stable. Daily new deaths have also leveled out, despite a slight decrease in recent weeks.

The figures led Mexico City to begin gradually reopening its non-essential activities late in June, including restaurants, beauty parlors, and shopping malls. These establishments, however, must operate at no more than 30 percent capacity. Regions with a high concentration of cases remain under “red alert” and are yet to reopen.

Official data from Mexico City shows 62,789 confirmed coronavirus infections and 8,160 deaths as of July 20, 2020.

São Paulo

Brazil’s largest urban center has seen a Covid-19 curve similar to that of Mexico City’s. Cases also peaked in May — and a plateau has been observed ever since, albeit at higher levels. Though the virus continues to spread, authorities have authorized the reopening of public parks, bars, restaurants, beauty salons, and gyms — at a cap of 40-percent capacity. 

São Paulo Governor João Doria — who in 2018 was elected on the coattails of President Jair Bolsonaro — has distanced himself from the far-right leader and his denialist rhetoric during the pandemic. For months, Mr. Doria defended restrictive measures against the virus — but political pressure stopped him from enacting a forceful lockdown. In the state, isolation rates never went much higher than 50 percent, partially because the federal government never fully endorsed social isolation. That helps explain why São Paulo’s curve has remained stable for weeks now — but has not decreased.

Official data shows 166,348 confirmed infections and 8,799 deaths caused by Covid-19 in the biggest city in the Southern Hemisphere.

New York City

No other city in the world has confirmed as many coronavirus cases as New York. The first infection was recorded in March — and a month later the city had become the world’s epicenter. At one point, the city’s new daily cases neared 5,300 on a 7-day rolling average — and the ongoing pandemic is the deadliest disaster in the history of the city, in terms of absolute death toll.

At first, authorities closed non-essential shops but kept recreational outdoor activities open, which experts say fueled the peak of infections and deaths in March. Like in Brazil, the U.S. never had a centralized strategy against the outbreak, with each state setting its own guidelines.

Since the peak, however, the curve has fallen drastically. New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo has even felt comfortable declaring victory against the virus. His administration launched a “New York Tough” propaganda poster last week, depicting the hardships of the pandemic as a mountain New Yorkers have climbed.

While the poster bears many references to the governor’s daughters and gives him a significant pat on the back, it makes no allusion to the 218,478 people who contracted the virus in the city — or the 18,787 who died from Covid-19.[/restricted]

Aline Gatto Boueri

Aline Gatto Boueri is a data journalist. She has had her work published by Gênero e Número, Universa UOL, Marie Claire, Projeto Colabora, among others.

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