India’s rising COVID-19 death toll impacting MA residents

BOSTON — The COVID-19 death toll in India topped 300,000 Monday. Sanjay Gowda’s father-in-law died two days ago; before that, his brother and cousin died three days apart. Gowda lives in Boston with his family and feels helpless a world away.

“There’s so much helplessness, sadness and despair,” he said. “We are too far away. We can’t travel and [aren’t] able to take care of the parents, the old ones and the loved ones,” Gowda said.

Doctors on the ground say the pandemic has overwhelmed India’s underfunded health care system. In the capital, New Delhi, residents have died at home with no oxygen as hospitals exhausted limited supplies.

Gowda’s mother in Bengal has spent weeks in the hospital.

“Getting the medical care was very, very tough,” Gowda said. “But we were, fortunately, able to get care for her. She was in the hospital for two weeks. Since then, she has been recovering slowly, thankfully.”

>>>MORE: US to restrict travel from India over COVID starting Tuesday

India’s death toll is the third-highest reported in the world after the U.S. and Brazil. Dr. Louise Ivers is the executive director of Massachusetts General Hospital’s Center for Global Health. She said her colleagues on the ground describing the situation as impossible.

“Just this overwhelming influx of patients to their hospitals. Many, many people are unable to get into hospitals because they’re so full. A lack of testing. A desperate lack of oxygen and ventilators,” Dr. Ivers said.

Ivers and other Bay State doctors penned a letter urging the Biden administration to send more aid and vaccination doses. State and national organizations have joined that call. Gowda is the president of the Indian Association of Greater Boston; they’ve held fundraisers and recruited the help of local lawmakers.

“What we really want to do is to see a large amount of people around the world vaccinated to really reduce the chance the virus is going to mutate potentially to variants that would be concerning to us,” Dr. Ivers said.

Gowda said this is not just a problem in India.

“We all went through [that] at some point of time,” he said. “This is a global pandemic. This issue belongs to all of us.”

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