Brazil's COVID-19 death toll could outpace the U.S.

A surge of COVID-19 deaths in Brazil means it could outpace the United States, with deaths climbing above 4,000 in a day for the first time on Tuesday.

With nearly 337,000 lives lost to the pandemic, Brazil's COVID-19 death toll only trails the U.S., where the average for daily deaths peaked at 3,285 in January.

But while vaccinations may help curb the U.S. outbreak, Brazil's healthcare system is overwhelmed.

The country has seen record new deaths from COVID-19 every week for the past two months.

Fueled by a more contagious local variant and minimal social distancing efforts.

And in the last year, by one recent tally, poverty has nearly tripled as the pandemic grinds the economy down to a crawl.

Marcelo Nery, director of a think tank on Brazilian development, says there needs to be more focus on vaccines.

"Financial assistance is not a solution to the problem. The solution can be vaccination. As long as the vaccine does not arrive, we need solutions that allow people to comply with the social distancing and stay at home."

President Jair Bolsonaro has begun embracing vaccines he once scorned, though the far-right politician continues to fight in the courts against social distancing restrictions.

He's also come under rising political pressure to act.

Bolsonaro responded with a dramatic shakeup of a half dozen ministries earlier this week, putting loyalists in key roles ahead of a potentially tough re-election campaign next year against his political nemesis.