KANSAS CITY, Mo. — India set new records once again Thursday, with more than 400,000 new cases of COVID-19 and nearly 4,000 deaths as a second wave hits the country.
The crisis is being felt here locally where people of Indian descent have family now trapped in the nation whose healthcare system is crumbling.
There are approximately 25,000 people in the Kansas City metro who were born in India or their parents were. Now they are trying to raise funds to deliver much needed oxygen to the nation.
After faring fairly well the first year of the pandemic, India is now in crisis.
Nearly half of the nation’s 21 million cases have happened in the past month. While the world watches to see if the mutated virus will spread, Kansas Citians with family in India are understandably worried about their health.
“You know the real struggle they are going through. You have lived in that country, you have experienced the culture and everything even when you are so far you still feel the pain, not only because they are your own relatives, but the people of your land are suffering,” said Anjana Singh, Indian Association of Kansas City president.
“Every person in our extended family is affected. I think the biggest thing that is heartbreaking is the oxygen,” said Venkat Manda, IAKC chair.
Indian officials say with so many patients on ventilators, the demand for oxygen has increased sevenfold in the past month. Most hospitals in India don’t have their own plants to generate oxygen for patients.
The Indian Association of Kansas City is raising funds to have oxygen concentrators manufactured in India and distributed.
“Oxygen concentrators will save multiple lives. It’s not a use-and-throw oxygen cylinder. So we are focused on providing those oxygen concentrators as much as possible back to India,” Manda said.
For now, both Singh and Manda’s parents are isolated in their homes. The country is on lockdown. A U.S.-India travel ban started this week, meaning their parents won’t be able to travel to see their grandchildren this summer as they originally hoped. They are coordinating deliveries to their parents’ doors from here in Kansas City so they can get the supplies they need, hoping to keep the mutated virus away and from spreading globally.
“If the mutants come out here, that’s going to be a major problem that we aren’t prepared for at this time,” Manda said.
One of the big problems in India has been a lack of vaccines. Cerner has several offices in India. An executive said Thursday it is working to send vaccines to colleagues there to keep them safe.