By Revathi Siva Kumar
Job losses, financial worries, immigration ban raise stress levels in community.
The American dream is turning into a nightmare for many Indians who made this land of opportunity their new home to get a slice of their dreams.
With America becoming the epicenter of coronavirus pandemic with over 1.25 million cases and about 75,000 deaths, people of Indian origin making up just one percent of US population, too, have suffered greatly.
While no official statistics of exact numbers of Indian Americans affected by covid-19 are available, social media indicates their numbers are mounting by the day.
Shyla, who works in the medical ICU at a leading healthcare facility in Connecticut says: “In the past few weeks, the entire unit is filled with only covid patients now.”
“The large ICU has been turned into Covid-ICU for treating covid patients exclusively,” she said as cited by the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI).
The stark reality is that in April, coronavirus claimed more than 40 Indian Americans and Indian citizens.
While more than 1,500 Indians were tested covid positive, according to the community leaders, fatalities included 17 from Kerala, 10 from Gujarat, four from Punjab, two from Andhra Pradesh and one from Orissa.
Most of them are above 60, except for one victim who was just 21.
Veteran Indian American journalist Brahm Kuchibhotla, a former United News of India news agency correspondent, passed away in a New York hospital last month.
Distressingly, due to the strict travel restrictions, local city officials have been performing even the last rites of many of the deceased patients!
The two states with the highest concentration of Indian Americans also seem to be showing the worst cases — New Jersey and New York.
Reports emerging from social media paint a bleak picture. Most of the victims are male, with many being taxi drivers.
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Sewa International, a leading Indian American non-profit organization, raised more than $250,000 for its covid-19 relief efforts.
The Indian embassy and consulates across the US are working with the community leaders to provide relief.
Community leaders say that every day they are getting reports of close relatives, as well as others testing positive.
A number of community leaders in the New York metropolitan area as well as Greater Washington Area of Maryland and Virginia have tested positive. A former AAPI president was admitted to ICU.
The profession most affected by the covid pandemic includes nurses educated in India, who are among the largest groups of internationally educated nurses in the US.
Ciji, an ER Nurse working at a local hospital in Connecticut, admits that she had never imagined that the disease would become so bad.
Her experience has been traumatic, as she had to isolate herself since the first day of caring for covid patients.
“I am very concerned about the safety of my family as I could bring this virus home any day with me,” she said as cited by AAPI.
“I have my kids, husband and more importantly my elderly parents who are vulnerable to this virus. I want to keep them safe.”
Ciji describes the stress level at work as “unprecedented”, as they have to work hard to keep people alive.
“It’s painful and traumatic to watch my patients die without being allowed to see their loved ones even on death bed.”
“Working in ICU wearing N95 mask for 13 hours gives me terrible headaches,” she said. “I get home and cry in the shower because I don’t want my family to see it.”
Ciji is not even able to hug her children. Though her three-year-old daughter knocks at her bedroom door, she cannot open the door.
“You will only be able to understand this pain when you go through it,” Ciji sobs.
President Donald Trump’s Executive Order last month imposing a 60-day ban on immigration has created panic and affected hordes of Indians waiting for immigration laws to ease.
Many Indians in the critical tech and business circles are particularly concerned about the halt in issuing of new green cards.
The Trump administration’s protectionist impulses could affect its talented workers and cut into the vibrant multiculturalism of America.
As the pandemic has caused millions of Americans to file for unemployment, with overcrowding in food banks and hospitals, foreign workers are facing bleak days ahead.
As one Indian software developer put it, “it’s not about losing jobs, but about losing dreams.”