Are South Asian Americans Coping with the Delta Variant?

Sonam Khandelwal, a mother of twin boys, based in Texas, remained less worried in a city in a foreign land as she had constant support from family and friends in India prior to the pandemic. But situations have changed drastically…

“It was like the support system being immediately being snatched and now with travel bans and social distancing, everything seems to be incomplete and fictitious. Suddenly, all the Indians staying in the U.S. and having families residing outside of the country didn’t know what to do. Seeking help could basically put your aged parents exposed to infection,” said Sonam getting emotional in every word that she was speaking.

Many South Asians within the U.S. have been witnessing a new form of loss and grief from being without their communities.

To recall, the world is under the grip of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic since the early days of 2020. The virus has claimed the lives of nearly 4.8 million people across the globe. The United States continues to be the worst affected nation in the world. The extremely transmissible Delta variant of the coronavirus has added further woes, and the U.S. is witnessing a major spike in daily new infections.

The Delta variant of the virus overtook all other variants in the U.S. and now, according to data from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (C.D.C.) it represents more than 99% of cases tracked in the country.

In its latest biweekly report of COVID-19 sequencing, the C.D.C. shows the virus variant climbing from just over a quarter of cases in mid-June to near-total dominance in September. Not just this; hospitals in the U.S. currently are overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients, mostly children, even though there is adequate availability of highly protective vaccines.

While, doctors and health workers say timely vaccination and wearing face masks can help contain the spread of the COVID-19, the fear among Americans has increased multi-fold.

Notably, when COVID-19 vaccines were first being rolled out in December, many Americans were apprehensive to get a dose, fearing that they might be unsafe or have dangerous side effects. The vaccine skepticism trend somewhat prevails in the U.S.

The Delta variant continues to wreak exceptional havoc on the South, one of the country’s least-vaccinated regions. Over 90% of intensive care unit (ICU) beds in six states including Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, and Texas – have become occupied.

Lawang Mishra, who is working as an IT professional in New York, says South Asians residing in the parts of the U.S. usually join their communities for a mourning period during times of loss. “Grief becomes power. It always strengthens the family members who lose their loved one, but such is the cruelty of the pandemic that the last rights of the person are not being performed in a ritualistic way,” added Lawang.

Sakshi Jain, who is pursuing her graduation in Law, in Houston, broke into tears and was in severe depression when she could not fly to Mumbai to see her younger brother for one last time after he lost the battle to COVID.

“I ran from pillar to post to get reach India, but the situation did not allow me. I attended my brother’s last rights online and I still can’t cope with the loss. COVID has devastated my entire family,” she said with a breaking voice and watery eyes.

“Covid initially affected all of us with a lot of uncertainty, fear, but by the time delta variant came, most are vaccinated. Indian second wave was devastating for many people as they lost some close family members and friends and could not do much due to distance. Many could not visit them even at or after death for the grief process. So many people have not seen their family for a couple of years. Loss and related trauma will last for them forever,” says Dr. Anju C. Jaiswal, Child Psychiatrist, and Medical Director at Children Psychiatrist Hospital at the University of New Mexico.

Dr. Jaiswal added that Indian parents remain worried about their children’s education, social distancing, and isolation during the last year. The new academic year has started in person in August and parents are worried what if it stops again with the spike in infection due to the new variant.

Asked about what could be the better way to handle fear among people following a rise in COVID-19 cases and death, Dr. Jaiswal said people should stay informed on all precautions, be vaccinated, follow basic guidelines, stay active and calm down their psyche.

“Praying, meditation, exercise, practicing individual faith is helpful. We have been learning more spiritual stuff based on our Sanatan dharma,” she added.

“At work and in school, mask indoors is followed with increased delta cases. We do maintain basin hand hygiene, distancing in public places as much as possible, avoid crowds, malls, movie theatres, etc, do more nature activity and most around us are doing the same,” Dr. Jaiswal concluded.


Umang Sharma is a media professional, avid reader, and film buff. His interests lie in making the world a better place through the power of the written word.


 

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