Real life anecdotes of Tri-state Indian-Americans coping with COVID-19

Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaking about COVID-19 spread in New York state (Photo videograb Twitter NYGovCuomo)

Aroon Shivdasani has a quintessential New York-attitude to her symptoms – a dry cough and low grade fever – don’t phase her. She tells her story with a cheeriness mixed with pragmatism,

Shivdasani just returned to New York City from Miami after she and her husband disembarked from a cruise. Living in a multi-generation family, she told Desi Talk, she called 311 almost immediately on the advice of her daughter, only to be told she should go to her family doctor. That didn’t work out because her doctor’s office told her they did not test for COVID-19.

To cut a long story short, though it may be applicable to many in the community, Shivdasani decided to go to a walk-in urgent care clinic on 86th Street where she finally got her way and saw the doctor who took some swabs and told her the sample results would be back in 3 to 6 days. No, she would not be called with the results but should keep checking the website to find out. She is stoically waiting. Meanwhile, she sounds sad that she has not seen her daughters and granddaughters. Everyone is keep away.

Aroon Shivdasani (Photo: Twitter)

“The doctor told me to go into quarantine. And stretched out his arms and said that was the distance I was to keep with another person. And I said that was not possible because I look after my disabled husband. Seems none of the doctors have test kits,” Shivdasani said, adding,”Anyway, you can only do what you can. We are quarantined, but I did go to the grocery store. There was no bread and no eggs but I did get some milk.”

The account of Shivdasani, the former executive director of Indo-American Arts Council, is probably being repeated around the city.

Meanwhile, in New Jersey, Neha Mahajan, who is in radio is pleased that her husband who works in IT, can do it from home. From firsthand accounts she knows that kids around the neighborhood are doing their schoolwork online. She however, has to go into her studio in the early morning hours regardless of the virus, but hopes she can change the hours of operation.

“But I must give kudos to the education system here in New Jersey. Schools have done an amazing job – teachers and educators need lots of kudos for bringing in change within a matter of couple of days. Kids have already been explained about basic care like hand-washing and no hugs etc. And they are being sent home with study packets which they do through Google Classroom, which they are familiar with already. Plus if kids have questions, the teacher is just an email away,” Mahajan told Desi Talk.

Meanwhile, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced March 16, 2020, that there has been an “enormous’ increase in testing, including drive-through testing in some upstate areas, and soon in Long Island and Staten Island.  So hopefully Shivdasani’s experience will not be the norm.

But Mahajan was concerned about the less than serious attitude of some of her Indian friends. “Our community doesn’t seem to understand how serious this is, or they are going into panic, I had to explain to my friends for instance – no house parties – I am not having any and not going to any, and they say, ‘but we are not exposed to this virus…,’.”

“If someone is not showing symptoms or not tested, does not mean they are not carrying the virus,” Mahajan said.

Meanwhile, Khan Academy, an education non-profit, is meeting the needs of students from K-12, with “Khan Academy schedules for school closures, recognizing that “This is a trying time for everyone,” and providing ‘schedules’ in the form of templates that can be adapted by classroom or district as needed.

Suraj Patel running for Congress. (Courtesy: LinkedIn)

Suraj Patel, candidate for the U.S. Congress from New York’s District 12, against long time incumbent Rep. Carolyn Maloney, scheduled a ‘Virtual Town Hall’ March 17, to address the crisis restaurant workers are facing in NYC.

Non-profit organizations and community groups including temples in the Tri-state area, are closing their doors temporarily. Both Chhaya Community Development Corporation and South Asian Council for Social Services are working remotely to assist members.  But SACSS has had to suspend its food pantry where just last week it served some 300 people.




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