Experiencing the pandemic in Brazil through the eyes of FAU alumni

FAU alumni that are in Brazil share their experiences going through the pandemic.

Graphic+by+Michelle+Rodriguez.+

Graphic by Michelle Rodriguez.

Richard Pereira, Staff Writer

As countries start to recover during the COVID-19 pandemic, FAU alumni share their experiences in a country still reporting more cases and deaths from it: Brazil.

Brazil passed the United Kingdom to become second in the world with the most COVID-19 deaths as reports state Brazil tried to stop publishing COVID-19 cases and deaths to its people.

Then on July 7, Brazil’s president Jair Bolsonaro tested positive for the coronavirus after months of initially downplaying the pandemic.

With this, the alumni share their thoughts going through the pandemic, how Brazil handled it compared to the U.S, and their criticisms of Brazil’s government.

EXPERIENCES IN BRAZIL

Thiago Motta, an FAU alum who graduated in 2013 who is currently living in Espirito Santo, says his city shut down in March for two months before opening back up. He works as an export analyst for Antolini do Brasil, a natural stone export brand.

“Shopping malls, street stores, and anything not essential (was) closed,” Motta said. 

Despite his city being shut down, Motta still kept working.

“At work, they started taking temperatures of everyone coming in, had them wearing masks, open up the hours of lunchtimes so not everyone ate at the same time, and spread out office spaces by at least five feet between each person,” Motta said. “Looking back, I think they did correctly because they could not stop as the size of the company could not be closed for two or three months without knowing when they could open up again.”

Frederico Santos, a 2011 FAU alum currently living in Rio de Janeiro and works as a destination manager for GetYourGuide, an online marketplace for tour guides and excursions, as he does not think the country as a whole planned for a safe period of going through this.

“There weren’t a lot of government policies following the correct protocols of the health organizations,” Santos said. “Eventually, things started to get worse here in Brazil, so there was that feeling of ‘I’m going to try to do as much as possible’ to stay home, not have interactions, and do social distancing.”

THE U.S-BRAZIL DIFFERENCE

Between the U.S and Brazil, the major difference was trying solutions that could limit the spread of the pandemic, according to Motta.

“When we see a city like New York on lockdown, we see they’re trying something. When we see California on lockdown, they’re trying something,” Motta said. “Over here with Sao Paulo, the most populated place in Brazil, we see the highest numbers and not trying everything that they can is a major difference to the U.S.”

Motta believes there is a lack of unity in Brazil between its citizens and politicians.

“We hear from doctors here that hospitals are full as there’s no capacity anymore, that as soon as someone dies, the next one comes in, but the numbers shown by our politicians say that it’s only 80 percent full,” Motta said. “At the end of the day, we don’t know who is telling the truth, who is saying something real, or who is saying something to make it sound worse.”

REPORTED MISUNDERSTANDINGS

Motta does not think it means much with Brazil being second in COVID-19 deaths due to the population but understands that one death is a death too much.

“I think we should have taken countries like Portugal and New Zealand in how they dealt with the pandemic, but Brazil has 210 million people,” Motta said. “We’re a large country in terms of area, and it is going to be harder to deal with it.”

Santos believes it to be a mirror of how Brazil is treating the pandemic.

“It’s tough to lock down everything and do quarantine because it would destroy the economics of the country, but if we had done a complete lockdown for 30 or 45 days, I think we would be in a better situation because even though the economy would suffer, there would be fewer deaths and people infected,” Santos said. “We’re still not at the peak; some people say we’re about to hit our peak in early July. We have the worst of both worlds.”

Motta said there were two sides of the story when it came to Brazil holding back numbers of COVID-19 cases and deaths as it’s not that they stopped telling people the numbers, it’s that they stopped showing the total numbers and only showed it for each day.

“Since this pandemic started in Brazil, a lot of deaths that happened are being tested after the fact. We were getting numbers of people that died a month ago from COVID-19, so they weren’t reported then, but they’re being reported now,” Motta said. “It doesn’t show the true situation because if it shows 1500 people died today, it doesn’t mean that they died today; it means their deaths were reported today, but it might be people who died two or three weeks ago.”

What Motta thought was that they were trying to show the actual number of cases reported each day, but with it coming from the government, they don’t know the true intention behind it.

Motta said, “they explained it as the numbers went back and I understood it better, but at the end of the day, we don’t know where we stand.”

Santos said it was outrageous to him that knowing that they’re going through this crisis and people are not being transparent with them of what’s going on.

“It’s scary because what else are they not showing us as a population?” Santos said. “If they’re covering up numbers for a pandemic, I can only imagine what other things they’re not showing to its people.” 

FUTURE PREPARATIONS

To Motta, having unity as people going through a pandemic needs to be addressed.

“It was each person trying to think for themselves instead of thinking for the better of the whole population,” Motta said. “We just need to practice empathy more as not everything needs to be a fight.”

The government having transparency with its people is also an issue Motta brings up that has to be taken care of.

Motta said, “it needs to show more of the reality as far as numbers go, the purchase of equipment, and the purchase of medications because, with its corruption, it needs to be even more transparent to other countries to show they’re trying to make it better.”

Santos thinks we should be better prepared for the future because this was a pandemic with no precedence.

“We have never experienced this kind of virus before,” Santos said. “In the future, we’ll be better prepared in the sense that we’re going to know what’s best in how to manage this.”

Richard Pereira is a staff writer for the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected] or tweet him @Richard042601.