Disconnected and helpless – this is how several members of the Indian community in San Diego describe their feelings as they watch the horrific scenes unfolding in India right now.
The nightmare scenario Americans once feared here is happening there: stranded intensive care units, a shortage of ventilators, deaths faster than bodies can be buried, and vaccines not distributed quickly enough – and as close to 400,000 new cases of COVID-19 per day threaten country’s health system with collapse, thousands of San Diego residents from India and Indian descent band together to help.
Dinesh Korat was born and raised in India, but now lives in San Diego. He told NBC 7 that six of his family in India contracted COVID-19 last month.
His 100-year-old father was the only one unable to beat him, dying in a hospital near Bombay on April 12.
Korat told NBC 7 he was grateful his father was even able to make it to a hospital in his dying days as thousands of people are turned away from overcrowded hospitals every day.
“I was very close to my father,” Korat said. “A few days before I had the opportunity to talk to him on video calls… he said to me, ‘Dinesh, I’m leaving, I want to go to God, I’m happy and I bless my whole family. “”
Korat told NBC 7 that his story is that of so many people in the United States with their family and friends in India.
He said he felt helpless looking for thousands of miles until he heard about “Project Motherland,” a donation from the nonprofit, The Saurashtra Patel Cultural Samaj, or SPCS. , to send supplies to remote areas of India.
The organization has raised more than $ 530,000 of its goal of $ 750,000 and plans to donate at least a thousand oxygen concentrators, among other supplies – the machines becoming a valuable resource in recent weeks as shortages affect communities across India.
“As a community here, we really want to help them because we have good lives here,” Korat said. “We have good treatments, we have vaccines… everyone wants to help in this situation.”
Dr Haresh Thumar, a doctor in India, sees the tragic scenes unfold every day and fears the situation will worsen as case and death rates continue to climb and concerns grow about a highly variant. transmissible.
He told NBC 7 that low vaccination rates, the spread of the virus in multigenerational homes and the delay in public response could explain why the second wave is much worse than in recent years.
“One last thing I imagine and this is a frightening situation – all healthcare workers, doctors and nurses are overworked right now and if they are affected it will be the worst case… Even if we have beds, hospitals, oxygen, medicine – if you don’t have the manpower it will be worse… it cannot happen at any cost, ”Thumar said. “As a doctor or healthcare worker, we feel helpless.”
India hit a grim milestone on Tuesday – 20 million COVID-19 infections including nearly 400,000 in the past 24 hours. The Indian government on Monday announced new plans to tackle the outbreak.
As gruesome as the numbers are right now, Thumar told NBC 7 that the numbers are almost certainly a significant undercoverage as many COVID-19 patients cannot make it to hospital and many have died. at home without ever having been tested for the virus.
While the country is one of the world’s largest vaccine manufacturers, less than 5% of its 1.4 billion people have been fully vaccinated – manufacturers now face severe shortages of equipment needed to produce doses vaccine.
In comparison, nearly 30% of the American population has been vaccinated.
After a call with Indian Prime Minister Modi last week, President Biden announced that the United States was planning to send PPE, test kits, millions of doses of vaccine and, perhaps more importantly, oxygen supplies.
Tuesday marked the first day that most travelers from India were barred from entering the United States, a restriction announced by the Biden administration last week.
The White House said travel from India will be restricted from May 4, citing an increase in the number of COVID-19 cases in India.
Korat told NBC 7 that he hopes conditions will improve with the new aid and said that in the meantime he will continue to work in the community to help his friends and family overseas.