SÃO PAULO — “I feel like I’m going to die.”
It was just after midnight on April 16, and Vanessa Pereira was chatting with one of her best friends, Jaci Diniz, on WhatsApp. Three days earlier, a doctor had told the 27-year-old psychology student that her exhaustion and shortness of breath were symptoms of COVID-19.
She was tested and sent home with a note to bring to her bosses at the call center where she worked in the northern São Paulo neighborhood of Santana. She was employed by Atento, a telemarketing company that operates in Latin America and is owned by Boston-based private investment firm Bain Capital, which is in talks to sell its equity stake in the company. Atento is present in 13 countries, but the majority of its work is done in Brazil, where it employs some 70,000 people and has 33 of its 48 call centers.
By Jill Langlois
Originally published online on July 20, 2020.