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Brazil hospitals buckle in absence of national virus plan

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Brazil hospitals buckle in absence of national virus plan

RIO DE JANEIRO — Brazil’s hospitals are faltering as a highly contagious coronavirus variant tears through the country, the president insists on unproven treatments and the only attempt to create a national plan to contain COVID-19 has just fallen short.

For the last week, Brazilian governors sought to do something President Jair Bolsonaro obstinately rejects: cobble together a proposal for states to help curb the nation’s deadliest COVID-19 outbreak yet. The effort was expected to include a curfew, prohibition of crowded events and limits on the hours nonessential services can operate.

The final product, presented Wednesday, was a one-page document that included general support for restricting activity but without any specific measures. Six governors, evidently still wary of antagonizing Bolsonaro, declined to sign on.

Piaui state’s Gov. Wellington Dias told The Associated Press that unless pressure on hospitals is eased, growing numbers of patients will have to endure the disease without a hospital bed or any hope of treatment in an intensive care unit.

“We have reached the limit across Brazil; rare are the exceptions,” Dias, who leads the governors’ forum, said. “The chance of dying without assistance is real.”

Those deaths have already started. In Brazil’s wealthiest state, Sao Paulo, at least 30 patients died this month while waiting for ICU beds, according to a tally published Wednesday by the news site G1. Occupancy of ICUs is above 90% in 15 of 27 capitals, according to the state-run Fiocruz institute. In southern Santa Catarina state, 419 people were waiting for transfer to ICU beds. Neighboring Rio Grande do Sul’s capacity was at 106%. Alexandre Zavascki, a doctor in its capital, described a constant arrival of hospital patients struggling to breathe.

“I have a lot of colleagues who, at times, stop to cry. This isn’t medicine we’re used to performing routinely. This is medicine adapted for a war scenario,” said Zavascki, who oversees infectious disease treatment at a private hospital. “We see a good part of the population refusing to see what’s happening, resisting the facts. Those people could be next to step inside the hospital and will want beds. But there won’t be one.”

The country, he added, needs “more rigid measures” from authorities.

Over the president’s objections, the Supreme Court last year upheld cities’ and states’ jurisdiction to impose restrictions on activity. Even so, Bolsonaro consistently condemned any such moves, saying the economy needed to keep churning and that isolation would cause depression.

The most recent surge is driven by the P1 variant that first became dominant in the Amazonian city Manaus.

Brazil’s failure to arrest the virus’ spread since then is increasingly a concern not just for Latin American neighbors, but also as a warning to the world, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director of the World Health Organization, said in a March 5 press briefing.

“In the whole country, aggressive use of the public health measures, social measures, will be very, very crucial,” he said. “Without doing things to impact transmission or suppress the virus, I don’t think we will be able in Brazil to have the declining trend.”

Last week’s tally of more than 10,000 deaths was Brazil’s highest since the pandemic began, and this week is on track to be even worse after the country posted nearly 2,300 deaths Wednesday — blowing away the prior day’s total that was also a record. At the Vila Formosa cemetery in Sao Paulo, burials are being done one after another, with mourners and cars lined up awaiting their turn.

Brazil has decades of experience with mass immunization campaigns, but rollout has been hobbled by delays, some self-inflicted; 5.5% of its population has been vaccinated.

“Governors, like a lot of the population, are getting fed up with all this inaction,” said Margareth Dalcolmo, a prominent pulmonologist at Fiocruz. She added that their proposed pact will remain symbolic unless it is far-reaching and confronts the federal government.

Brazil’s national council of state health secretaries last week called for the establishment of a national curfew and lockdown in regions that are approaching maximum hospital capacity. Bolsonaro again demurred.

“I won’t decree it,” Bolsonaro said Monday at an event. “And you can be sure of one thing: My army will not go to the street to oblige the people to stay home.”

Restrictions can already be found just outside the presidential palace after the Federal District’s governor, Ibaneis Rocha, implemented a curfew and partial lockdown. Rocha warned Tuesday that he could clamp down harder, sparing only pharmacies and hospitals, if people keep disregarding rules. Currently, 213 people in the district are on the wait list for an ICU bed.

Bolsonaro told reporters Monday that the curfew is “an affront, inadmissible,” and said that even the WHO believes lockdowns are inadequate because they disproportionately hurt the poor. While the WHO acknowledges “profound negative effects,” it says some countries have had no choice but to impose heavy-handed measures to slow transmission, and that governments must make the most of the extra time provided to test and trace cases, while caring for patients.

Such nuance was lost on Bolsonaro. His government continues its search for silver-bullet solutions that so far has served only to stoke false hopes. Any idea appears to warrant consideration, except the ones from public health experts.

Bolsonaro’s government spent millions producing and distributing malaria pills, which have shown no benefit in rigorous studies. Still, Bolsonaro endorsed the drugs. He has also supported treatment with two drugs for fighting parasites, neither of which have shown effectiveness. He again touted their capacity to prevent hospitalizations during a Wednesday event in the presidential palace.

Bolsonaro also dispatched a committee to Israel this week to assess an unproven nasal spray that he has called “a miraculous product.” Fiocruz’s Dalcolmo, whose younger sister is currently in an ICU, called the trip “really pathetic.”

Meanwhile, the city of Araraquara, in Sao Paulo’s interior, has seen new cases turn downward weeks after declaring lockdown amid a crippling surge dominated by the P1 variant. Mayor Edinho Silva told the AP in a message that, without mass vaccination, there was no alternative.

Camila Romano, a researcher at the University of Sao Paulo’s Institute of Tropical Medicine, hopes a test her lab developed to identify worrisome variants, including P1, will help monitor and control their spread. She also wants to see stricter government measures, and citizens doing their part.

“Every day is a new surprise, a new variant, a city whose health system enters collapse,” Romano said. “We’re now in the worst phase. Whether this will be the worst phase of all, unfortunately we don’t know what’s yet to come.”

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Here’s which animals Americans think they can beat in a fight

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Here's which animals Americans think they can beat in a fight

They say you should never poke a bear, but an overly confident 6% of Americans would.

A new online survey by YouGov — which appears to serve no higher purpose than to entertain — has revealed that, despite our reputation for arrogance, Americans are surprisingly realistic when it comes to fantasy match-ups pitting humans against beasts.

The ridiculous statistic, taken from a poll of 1,224 US adults aged 18 and over, asked participants to answer the query “Which animal do you think would win in a fight?” — humans included. The survey asked each volunteer to select one of two animals in a hypothetical head-to-head and answer seven rounds of pairings.

It should come as no surprise that the mighty elephant and fierce rhinoceros won out against more than 30 other predators and prey 74% of the time, securing their title as true rulers of the wild — at least, from humans’ perspective.

Grizzly bears got third billing (73%), then tigers (70%) and, in fifth place, the hippopotamus (69%) — who beat out some of the most agile hunters in all the animal kingdom, including the lion (68%) and a number of other big cats. It’s an astute assessment as the hippo, clocking in at about three tons, is widely considered to be one of the world’s deadliest animals, and kills some 500 people each year in Africa alone.

What followed is a pretty typical cast of ferocious characters, like the crocodile (67%) or the alligator (65%); the gorilla and the polar bear (each 64%). Notably raging reptiles — the anaconda, King Cobra and the Komodo dragon — all had strong showings. Even a few ruminants — the buffalo, bull and moose — were highly regarded.

Geese were considered the least of all formidable animals, winning just 14% of the time. Humans came next with 17%. Even a honey badger (37%) got more backing than us.

Survey data was also reorganized to reflect how humans ranked themselves against all other animals. Turns out we showed a healthy fear for some of the most savage beasts in more than 90% of match-ups, including against crocs, gorillas, elephants and lions.

Nearly half of us think we could take down a mid-sized dog, while just 23% would clash with a large canine. (In reality, dogs are more blight than bite: Rabies caused by feral dog bites kill tens of thousands globally per year, according to the World Health Organization, whereas, last year in the US, just 36 people died from injuries caused by dogs.) And put us in front of a rat, house cat or common landfowl and folks will put their money on our species about two-thirds of the time.

However, there’s one animal the survey didn’t name that deserves a nod: the mosquito. They may seem easy to squash, but the humble insect is responsible for more human deaths — hundreds of thousands — than any other animal, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Probably because, well, who could see them coming?

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Dad throws baby fit at pink gender reveal party

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Dad throws baby fit at pink gender reveal party

A father-to-be proved himself the biggest baby at his future child’s gender reveal. 

A viral TikTok video from this spring has captured the moment a dad learned that his unborn kid will be a girl — a fact he seems not very happy about.

While the rest of the crowd present erupts in cheers as a pregnant woman pops a balloon covered in question marks — that proves to be filled with smaller pink balloons, revealing that the woman will be having a daughter — the father has quite a different reaction. “Son of a bitch,” he appears to scream, throwing down the balloon’s strings in frustration and turning away from the party guests, all smiling but him.

The video, which was posted on April 25, has racked up over 566,000 views on the platform. 

The reaction is certainly not the best, but other recent gender reveals have gone up in far bigger flames.

Earlier in April, a particularly rambunctious gender reveal in New Hampshire shook homes in neighboring towns, was felt across state lines and prompted earthquake concerns, because it caused such a huge blast. It turns out, revelers had detonated 80 pounds of Tannerite to celebrate the fact that the baby was a boy. 

“We heard this God-awful blast,” neighbor Sara Taglieri told NBC 10 Boston. “It knocked pictures off our walls . . . I’m all up for silliness and whatnot, but that was extreme.”

Other notably intense gender reveal incidents have involved an Australian driver using color-infused rubber tires for (explosive) burnouts, a Tennessee couple using handheld colored smoke cannons and a gender reveal in Iowa that launched lethal shrapnel.

The woman behind the fad has begged people to be safer.

“For the love of God, stop burning things down to tell everyone about your kid’s penis. No one cares but you,” the parenting blogger credited with inventing the baby-reveal trend wrote last year. “

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Diver spots fish wearing a gold wedding ring in Australia

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Diver spots fish wearing a gold wedding ring in Australia

One man’s treasure is a fish’s trash.

A common mullet fish was spotted in the southern Pacific Ocean looking like a thousand bucks — by reasonable estimates.

Earlier this week, travel writer and avid snorkeler Susan Prior, who lives on Australia’s Norfolk Island, shared images of a silvery mullet fish, no more than a few inches long, with a gold wedding band wrapped around its head.

Prior is used to seeing these tiny fish sporting similar collars, usually made of plastic, which likely come from discarded “plastic juice and milk bottles,” she said, which so often end up in the ocean.

“Sometimes these rings escape into the wild, and this is the sad consequence,” Prior said in a May 11 blog post on her website.

But one mullet recently caught her eye for its particularly flashy new accessory.

“This one looked a shiny metallic gold, with a lot less algal growth compared to the plastic ones,” she wrote, referring to past mullets she’s seen with a similar look.

Although it’s certainly not uncommon for swimmers to lose their rings in the water, Prior also remembered that someone from Norfolk Island had in fact lost their gold band recently.

“I recalled that someone had posted on our local community social media pages about a large man’s wedding ring that had gone missing in the bay earlier this year, so I decided to see if I could find the possible owner,” she explained. “It didn’t take long for my suspicion to be confirmed; we now have a poor mullet weighed down with someone’s (expensive) gold wedding ring.”

However, she was unable to return the ring since she couldn’t catch up to the fish. According to Prior, who takes daily swims in the ocean, mullets are uniquely susceptible to picking up rings.

“Mullet snuffle through the sand looking for food, making it so easy for a ring or hair tie to flip over their noses and get stuck,” she wrote.

The amateur underwater photographer also pointed out that, valuable or not, these fish are being hampered by the added weight and algal growth, and at risk of being “slowly strangled,” she wrote. “The mullet has a life to live and it’s only fair he gets to live it.”

She also reminded her readers that, if we can’t keep trash from settling on the seabed, we can at the very least take steps to prevent harm to marine life.

“It is such a quick job to [pry] the collar off the bottle and snip it before putting it in your waste,” she wrote.

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