People over the age of 65 are most susceptible to complications from COVID-19, which makes the story of Gina Dal Colleto pretty remarkable. The Brazilian great-grandmother, who is currently 97, is the country’s oldest survivor of the virus so far, igniting a bit of hope in Latin America—a region that has been bracing itself for a bleak and difficult few months amid the pandemic.
According to Reuters, Colleto was admitted to a hospital at the beginning of the month. Given her age, her prognosis wasn’t very hopeful. She was put on oxygen and placed in intensive care when she first arrived. But on Sunday, hospital workers applauded her as she was discharged from Sao Paulo’s Vila Nova Star hospital, giving her a hero’s exit as she left in a wheelchair.
“Even with almost a century of life, Gina has a very active routine and enjoys walking, shopping and cooking,” Vila Nova Star said through a statement. “She has six grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.”
Her story is a sliver of good news in Brazil. With 22,720 cases and 1,270 deaths, it is the country hardest hit by COVID-19 in Latin America. Last week, Brazil’s Health Minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta confirmed that the first person from the remote Yanomami indigenous group—a 15-year-old boy named Alvanei Xirixan—had died from the virus. He’s one of three deaths in Brazil’s indigenous community, which are vulnerable to respiratory illnesses and outside diseases. Some experts say these groups risk being “wiped out” as the virus spreads.
Part of the difficulty Brazil faces lies within its leadership. President Jair Bolsonaro, who has a long history of anti-LGBTQ comments and right-wing policies, has been downplaying the threat of the virus, referring to it as a “little flu” and “hysteria.” Doctors in Brazil have warned that his behavior puts millions of lives at risk and could turn the pandemic into a full-blown crisis in the country.
“It’s as if everybody’s on the same train heading towards a cliff-edge and someone says: ‘Look out! There’s a cliff!’ And the passengers shout: ‘Oh no there isn’t!’ And the train driver says: ‘Yeah, there’s nothing there!’” Ivan França Junior, an epidemiologist from the University of São Paulo’s faculty of public health, told the Guardian this weekend. “My sadness stems from seeing avoidable deaths that we are not going to avoid.”