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Brazil near 100,000 deaths from COVID-19

Last Updated Aug 8, 2020 at 3:45 pm CDT

A man helps to place red balloons in the sand on Copacabana beach in a demonstration organized by Rio de Paz to honor the victims of COVID-19, as the country heads to a milestone of 100,000 new coronavirus related deaths, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Saturday, Aug. 8, 2020. (AP Photo/Mario Lobao)

RIO DE JANEIRO — Brazil was leaping toward a grim milestone — 100,000 deaths from COVID-19 — on Saturday, and five months after the first reported case, the country had not shown signs of crushing the disease.

Brazil, a nation of 210 million people, has been reporting an average of more than 1,000 daily deaths from the pandemic since late May.

The Health Ministry on Friday said there had been a total of 2,962,442 confirmed infections with the new coronavirus and 99,572 deaths — tolls second only to the United States. And as in many nations, experts believe that both numbers are severe undercounts due to insufficient testing.

In a tribute to COVID-19 victims, the non-governmental group Rio de Paz placed crosses and a thousand red balloons on the sand on the famed Copacabana beach Saturday.

“It’s very sad. Those 100,000 represent various families, friends, parents, children”, said Marcio Silva, 55, who lost his children in the pandemic and joined the tribute.

One poster read: “100 thousand: Why are we the second country in number of deaths?” At the end of the tribute, members of the NGO released the balloons, which sailed into the sky.

President Jair Bolsonaro — who himself reported being infected — has been a consistent skeptic about the impact of the disease and an advocate of lifting restrictions on the economy that had been imposed by state governors trying to combat it. He has frequently mingled in crowds, sometimes without a mask.

“I regret all the deaths, it’s already reaching the number 100,000, but we are going to find a way out of that”, Bolsonaro said in a Thursday night Facebook transmission.

Marcelo De Sousa, The Associated Press