Brazil’s Carnival beat fades, making way for virus shelter
RIO DE JANEIRO — A month ago, a massive Carnival party bursting with samba music and smiling faces raged inside Rio de Janeiro’s Sambadrome. Today, its floodlights are off and there’s no hint of celebration as its grounds serve a humanitarian purpose: protecting the homeless from the new coronavirus.Rio’s Sambadrome started receiving homeless people on Monday, with City Hall giving priority to the elderly, pregnant and women with children. It’s one of several large event spaces in Brazil being re-purposed as the nation reports more than 4,500 new coronavirus cases and 150 deaths. Neighboring Argentina is doing the same for its homeless.Beneath the Sambadrome’s bleachers, Rio city authorities have converted three rooms that normally serve as classrooms into dormitories. Sixty beds were occupied on Monday, as authorities work to boost the total to 400. The beds are separated in ventilated and cleansed rooms, and social workers at the shelter check arriving homeless people for symptoms. If they have any, they’re sent to a health post.“This space will be for sheltering those who accept being protected from the coronavirus,” Jucelia Oliveira Freitas, secretary of social assistance and human rights, told The Associated Press. “This population is the most vulnerable of all.