COVID-19: Indians Stuck in US Tell Us What It’s Like

Stories of engulfing confusion and overwhelming loneliness from the States.

Published31 Mar 2020, 05:39 PM IST
India
3 min read

As the coronavirus pandemic hit the United States, it quickly surpassed China’s numbers with nearly 163,500 confirmed cases. The United States also has the highest number of tragic deaths due to the virus, crossing 3000. And while countries go into lockdown, President Trump has been vocally against the idea of a strict lockdown, saying he hopes to see “churches packed” by Easter.

Meanwhile, while the American government has started schemes to help its residents, Indians who are currently in America are facing a number of problems. Unable to go home and not being the American government’s primary concern, their plight is largely not understood. The Quint spoke to a few such people, including graduate students and doctors:

Emotional Turmoil

Sanya Batra, a graduate student of Columbia University in the city of New York, spoke about not being able to go back home for fear of being a carrier:

“It is very scary here because the number of COVID-19 cases have crossed Italy also. I was worried about being a carrier and giving it to my parents and my parents are old so I don’t want to do that, which is why I stayed here. But now every other day I think about it. Because it is going to go on for so long I feel like I probably wouldn’t be able to go back home.”
Sanya Batra, resident of Manhattan, New York
A food truck vendor pushes his cart down an empty street near Times Square in New York, on Sunday, 15 March 2020.
A food truck vendor pushes his cart down an empty street near Times Square in New York, on Sunday, 15 March 2020.
(Photo: AP)

She also spoke about the constant fear that surrounds her, and how she has been stuck in her small NY apartment for days now. “Even something as small as going out to throw the trash fills me with paranoia. I don't know how to do it,” she said.

Of Healthcare and Taking Risks

Apart from the emotional turmoil, Indians also are facing a more pressing problem- the lack of affordable healthcare. Maani Kurian, a student of Fine Arts at the University of Baltimore, highlighted the same:

“Summer holidays are right around the bend and normally during summer holidays most students get part-time gigs at restaurants and bars and grocery stores and stuff just to make up for the exorbitant fee that they have to pay in these colleges here, and a lot of them are going back to work, risking the infection even though they don’t have insurance.”
Maani Kurian, resident of Louisiana

Poor Employment Prospects and Lay Offs

Meanwhile, as the economy hits rock bottom worldwide, immigrant students in the US who have taken up huge loans in the hope of later getting a job are now worried that it might not happen in time. Companies have also started laying off people, Sonakshi Kapoor, an attorney from San Francisco pointed out:

“And there have been certain lay offs here on account of the markets really tanking because of COVID-19. As an immigrant and as an H1B worker if I do lose my job I will have 60 days to find a replacement job or I’ll have to leave the country.”
Sonakshi Kapoor, resident of San Francisco

Meanwhile, Rasia Mansoor has problems with her American visa expiring soon. She says she doesn’t know what will happen if airlines are not functional by her exiting date.

“We have to leave from the US and go back to India by the end of May and we don’t know how that is going to work out because most of the flights are cancelled now and we don’t know if they’ll start running again by the end of May. If India will even allow the flights in by then or if the lockdown is going to extend. Or if US will allow us to stay because our visas will be over by then.”
Rasia Mansoor, resident of Ohio

As the loneliness kicks in, and the confusion around the situation keeps building up, Indians are finding it difficult to cope. Alankrutha, a resident of Texas, urges people to “take it one day at a time” and realise that “this situation is beyond our control.”

Meanwhile, doctors continue to urge people to practice social distancing to ensure hospital capacities are not overwhelmed. With each person staying home, the chances of infection being passed on goes down. As Dr Kohli from New York pointed out, “Simply put, hospitals might be able to take better care of ten patients with COVID-19 instead of thousand on one given day.”

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