Philip Reeves

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Brazil surpassed 400,000 COVID-19 deaths on Thursday at the tail-end of the country's deadliest month of the pandemic yet.

At last count, 401,186 people had died in Brazil based on data tracked by Johns Hopkins University, a toll only the U.S. has topped.

More Brazilians have died from the virus in the first four months of this year than in all of 2020, with the death toll having jumped from 300,000 to 400,000 in the past five weeks alone.

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Health officials in Brazil say many hospitals are running dangerously short of sedatives and other crucial medications used for treating gravely ill COVID-19 patients.

They say some health services have already exhausted stocks of certain drugs, while others expect to do so within the next few days unless they receive fresh supplies.

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RIO DE JANEIRO — Cinthia Ribeiro knew she had a fight on her hands when COVID-19 arrived in her hometown in Brazil. What she didn't know was that, one year on, humans would be out to kill her, too.

Ribeiro is mayor of Palmas, capital of Tocantins, a small state wedged between the southeastern edge of the Amazon rainforest and the Cerrado, South America's tropical savanna.

The fresh wave of infections now racing across the landscape has reached her city, flooding hospitals with patients, and pushing intensive care unit occupancy rates up to 96%.

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When the health system first collapsed in the Amazonian city of Manaus, Brazil, and COVID-19 victims were buried in mass graves, the mayor sent a desperate appeal to then-President Donald Trump and other world leaders.

"We are doing our best, but I tell you, it's still very little in [the] face of the oncoming barbarism" said Arthur Virgílio Neto in a video message. "We cannot be silent. We need all possible help."

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A tragedy is playing out in the city of Manaus in northern Brazil. There is a huge surge of COVID cases there, and oxygen supplies are so scarce that people have died of suffocation in their hospital beds. NPR's Philip Reeves reports.

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