With India experiencing a surge of coronavirus cases and deaths, Americans, including residents in Loudoun County, are trying to find ways of assisting family members and friends on the other side of the globe.
U.S. Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) joined more than dozen members of the Indian-American community Friday in Ashburn to discuss the ongoing health crisis in India.
India is one of three countries to have more than 290,000 deaths attributed to COVID-19, according to John Hopkins University of Medicine. The United States has the most, with more than 580,000 lives lost to the virus.
“Whether it be India, whether it be Jordan, whether it be Jamaica, there's a number of countries that are having none with the level of human suffering that’s going on right now than India,” Warner said.
Warner listened to concerns and ideas during a roundtable at The Signature Celebration by Rupa Vira in Ashburn with community and business leaders from Loudoun County. The Asian community makes up 20.4% of the county population as of 2019, according to the U.S. Census.
Last month, Warner and his colleague, U.S. Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), the co-chairs of the Senate India Caucus, urged President Joe Biden (D) in a letter to increase efforts to support hard-hit countries such as India with medical supplies and surplus vaccinations due to the surge in coronavirus infections, according to Warner’s office.
Shortly after Warner and Cornyn's intervention, the U.S. delivered $100 million worth of supplies to India including oxygen equipment and vaccine-manufacturing supplies to support frontline workers. U.S. assistance has reached more than 9.7 million Indian's, according to the White House.
India and the U.S. have worked together for over 70 years to combat outbreaks, advance health security and fight tuberculosis since 1988.
However, since the delivery, residents and business owners at Friday’s roundtable said they are concerned about how those resources are being allocated.
Vinai K. Thummalapally, the first Indian-American U.S. Ambassador, said one idea to address the matter is for United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to appoint coordinator. USAID’s mission is focused on saving lives, reducing poverty, strengthening democratic governance and helping people progress beyond assistance across the globe.
"There's no shortage of will and commitment. It's an it's an issue of coordination and you will see it [USAID] is well positioned with the capacity, the experience, and they know how to handle this,” Thummalapally said.
Anurag Kumar, minister of community affairs for the Embassy of India, echoed the belief that coordination of relief is important. He said everyone has felt the impact of the crisis “one way or another.”
Others said they need more transparency to see how the resources are getting across the globe, and urged the federal government to send unused personal protective equipment to India.
Kavita Challa, president of Telangana Development Forum have been coordinating COVID-19 support to rural India, Warner’s office said to the Times-Mirror.
Kavita Challa told the group, “We are trying in all different ways to save lives.”
Priyank Vira, co-owner of Celebration by Rupa Vira, said it’s important to also raise vaccine awareness and education for people living in India. He said there is still some hesitancy in the country.
“The crisis has not passed. It is still here,” Vira said.
Del. Suhas Subramanyam (D-87th), who represents parts of Loudoun and Prince William Counties, said he also has been impacted by the surge of cases and deaths in India.
He said while India is an important ally to the U.S., the country holds personal importance for many of his constituents. Subramanyam hoped the health issues in India would have improved before Friday’s roundtable.
Instead, he said the opposite happened, with only about 2% of the population having been vaccinated.
“The vaccination rates are very low [in India],” Subramanyam said. “The data is saying one thing, but I think it's much worse. There's a lot of underreported people affected, getting COVID or dying, and so there's so much more work to do.”
Warner said the U.S. has provided 80 million doses of vaccine to India, which is good considering the need, but “it’s only a drop in the bucket,” he said. Warner said he is urging more U.S. businesses to contribute funding to help India beat back the surging coronavirus.
“The support for India is broad and very deep in the Senate and I know India will get through this,” Warner said. “India has enormous resilience, but I think it's going to be a very difficult next three or four months.”