Brazil's Coronavirus Skeptic Leader Gets Judicial Scolding for Breaking Mask Law

Brazil’s Coronavirus Skeptic Leader Gets Judicial Scolding for Breaking Mask Law

Brazil’s Coronavirus Skeptic Leader Gets Judicial Scolding for Breaking Mask Law

Brazil’s Coronavirus Skeptic Leader Gets Judicial Scolding for Breaking Mask Law

A federal judge in Brazil admonished President Jair Bolsonaro for failing to wear a mask in public spaces in the capital, a rare rebuke for a leader who has repeatedly dismissed the danger posed by the coronavirus even as his country became a major hot spot.

Although officials in the capital, Brasília, have ordered residents to wear masks whenever they are outdoors, Mr. Bolsonaro has often been seen venturing outside with his face uncovered. Sometimes he shakes hands and encourages crowds.

Now it may cost him. At least, financially.

In an order issued late Monday, Judge Renato Coelho Borelli warned the president that he was subject to a $400 fine for appearing in public without a mask.

The order came as Brazil’s virus caseload passed one-million mark over the weekend. More than 50,000 people have died, and in recent days health officials have often reported more than 1,000 deaths a day.

Those figures put Brazil behind only the United States.

In his order, the judge wrote that a “simple Google search” yields several photos of Mr. Bolsonaro walking around Brasília without a mask, ”exposing other people to a disease that has caused national consternation.”

Several top aides of the president were found to have the virus in March after a presidential delegation returned from a trip to Florida, where Mr. Bolsonaro dined with President Trump.

The order was issued in response to a lawsuit filed by a Brazilian attorney, Victor Mendonça Neiva, who turned to the courts to call attention to the president’s cavalier handling of the health crisis.

Earlier this month, many weeks after it had become mandatory to wear a mask in Brasília, Mr. Bolsonaro stopped at a police checkpoint to shake people’s hands, hug children and take pictures with supporters. He wasn’t wearing a mask.

Judge Borelli reminded the president that no one is “above the law” and asserted that his conduct has demonstrated a “clear intent to break the rules.”

Even as Brazil’s pandemic worsened in recent weeks, Mr. Bolsonaro continued to rail against social distancing measures and business shutdowns.

“We call on governors and mayors to find ways to reopen shops in a rational, responsible way,” he said in a video he posted on Facebook on Thursday. “Brazilians can’t tolerate staying at home anymore.”

  • Updated June 24, 2020

    • Is it harder to exercise while wearing a mask?

      A commentary published this month on the website of the British Journal of Sports Medicine points out that covering your face during exercise “comes with issues of potential breathing restriction and discomfort” and requires “balancing benefits versus possible adverse events.” Masks do alter exercise, says Cedric X. Bryant, the president and chief science officer of the American Council on Exercise, a nonprofit organization that funds exercise research and certifies fitness professionals. “In my personal experience,” he says, “heart rates are higher at the same relative intensity when you wear a mask.” Some people also could experience lightheadedness during familiar workouts while masked, says Len Kravitz, a professor of exercise science at the University of New Mexico.

    • I’ve heard about a treatment called dexamethasone. Does it work?

      The steroid, dexamethasone, is the first treatment shown to reduce mortality in severely ill patients, according to scientists in Britain. The drug appears to reduce inflammation caused by the immune system, protecting the tissues. In the study, dexamethasone reduced deaths of patients on ventilators by one-third, and deaths of patients on oxygen by one-fifth.

    • What is pandemic paid leave?

      The coronavirus emergency relief package gives many American workers paid leave if they need to take time off because of the virus. It gives qualified workers two weeks of paid sick leave if they are ill, quarantined or seeking diagnosis or preventive care for coronavirus, or if they are caring for sick family members. It gives 12 weeks of paid leave to people caring for children whose schools are closed or whose child care provider is unavailable because of the coronavirus. It is the first time the United States has had widespread federally mandated paid leave, and includes people who don’t typically get such benefits, like part-time and gig economy workers. But the measure excludes at least half of private-sector workers, including those at the country’s largest employers, and gives small employers significant leeway to deny leave.

    • Does asymptomatic transmission of Covid-19 happen?

      So far, the evidence seems to show it does. A widely cited paper published in April suggests that people are most infectious about two days before the onset of coronavirus symptoms and estimated that 44 percent of new infections were a result of transmission from people who were not yet showing symptoms. Recently, a top expert at the World Health Organization stated that transmission of the coronavirus by people who did not have symptoms was “very rare,” but she later walked back that statement.

    • What’s the risk of catching coronavirus from a surface?

      Touching contaminated objects and then infecting ourselves with the germs is not typically how the virus spreads. But it can happen. A number of studies of flu, rhinovirus, coronavirus and other microbes have shown that respiratory illnesses, including the new coronavirus, can spread by touching contaminated surfaces, particularly in places like day care centers, offices and hospitals. But a long chain of events has to happen for the disease to spread that way. The best way to protect yourself from coronavirus — whether it’s surface transmission or close human contact — is still social distancing, washing your hands, not touching your face and wearing masks.

    • How does blood type influence coronavirus?

      A study by European scientists is the first to document a strong statistical link between genetic variations and Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. Having Type A blood was linked to a 50 percent increase in the likelihood that a patient would need to get oxygen or to go on a ventilator, according to the new study.

    • How many people have lost their jobs due to coronavirus in the U.S.?

      The unemployment rate fell to 13.3 percent in May, the Labor Department said on June 5, an unexpected improvement in the nation’s job market as hiring rebounded faster than economists expected. Economists had forecast the unemployment rate to increase to as much as 20 percent, after it hit 14.7 percent in April, which was the highest since the government began keeping official statistics after World War II. But the unemployment rate dipped instead, with employers adding 2.5 million jobs, after more than 20 million jobs were lost in April.

    • What are the symptoms of coronavirus?

      Common symptoms include fever, a dry cough, fatigue and difficulty breathing or shortness of breath. Some of these symptoms overlap with those of the flu, making detection difficult, but runny noses and stuffy sinuses are less common. The C.D.C. has also added chills, muscle pain, sore throat, headache and a new loss of the sense of taste or smell as symptoms to look out for. Most people fall ill five to seven days after exposure, but symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as many as 14 days.

    • How can I protect myself while flying?

      If air travel is unavoidable, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself. Most important: Wash your hands often, and stop touching your face. If possible, choose a window seat. A study from Emory University found that during flu season, the safest place to sit on a plane is by a window, as people sitting in window seats had less contact with potentially sick people. Disinfect hard surfaces. When you get to your seat and your hands are clean, use disinfecting wipes to clean the hard surfaces at your seat like the head and arm rest, the seatbelt buckle, the remote, screen, seat back pocket and the tray table. If the seat is hard and nonporous or leather or pleather, you can wipe that down, too. (Using wipes on upholstered seats could lead to a wet seat and spreading of germs rather than killing them.)

    • What should I do if I feel sick?

      If you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus or think you have, and have a fever or symptoms like a cough or difficulty breathing, call a doctor. They should give you advice on whether you should be tested, how to get tested, and how to seek medical treatment without potentially infecting or exposing others.


Judge Borelli noted that several officials in the Mr. Bolsonaro administration are also failing to wear masks in public.

A minister of education, Abraham Weintraub, was fined earlier this month for not wearing a mask when he joined a group of people in a pro-government demonstration. (Mr. Weintraub stepped down last week after the Supreme Court moved forward with a criminal investigation into disinformation campaigns in which he is a target, and made a hasty departure for the United States.)

In recent weeks, as Mr. Bolsonaro and his allies have faced mounting criminal and legislative investigations, he has limited public appearances. But the president and his allies have at times lashed out against members of the judiciary, complaining that some of their inquiries amounted to overreach.

Last week, after the Supreme Court took aim at the president’s close allies by allowing investigators to examine their bank records, Mr. Bolsonaro appeared in public and called the move a dangerous provocation.

“The time is coming to put things back in their proper place,” he said, fuming.

Critics saw the warning as an affront to the democratic order.

But in that instance, at least, the president wore a mask.


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