First a little American COVID good news: "West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice (R)... was growing desperate to find some way of persuading his residents to get the coronavirus vaccine. He decided to pay $100 to every person between the ages of 16 to 35-- one of the demographics most resistant to vaccination-- who gets the shot."
Ironically, shutdowns across the world-- including in India-- saw a tremendous decrease in air pollution. That didn't help a 27 year old guy in Delhi who's helping me on a tech project. He died this morning. One of his teammates, 26, is fighting for his life. The COVID situation in India is literally catastrophic.
India, which has the same kind of incompetent narrow-minded know-it-all pig for a national leader as Trump, Putin and Bolsonaro, reported 354,531 more deaths Monday and 319,435 more yesterday, bringing the national total to over 17.6 million. Some say the reported numbers aren't even half of the actual statistics. Yesterday India reported 2,764 new deaths, more deaths than the next 3 most deadly countries-- Brazil, Iran and the U.S.-- combined.
The NY Times bureau chief in Delhi, Jeffrey Gettleman, reported that his neighborhood has dozens of houses with sick people, that one of his Times colleagues is sick, one of his son's teachers is sick... "Crematories are so full of bodies, it’s as if a war just happened. Fires burn around the clock. Many places are holding mass cremations, dozens at a time, and at night, in certain areas of New Delhi, the sky glows. Sickness and death are everywhere." The medicine people need is not available, not in Delhi, not anywhere in the country.
Gettleman, despairing, wrote that he's sitting in his apartment waiting to get sick. "That’s what it feels like right now in New Delhi with the world’s worst coronavirus crisis advancing around us. It is out there, I am in here, and I feel like it’s only a matter of time before I, too, get sick."
India is now recording more infections per day-- as many as 350,000-- than any other country has since the pandemic began, and that’s just the official number, which most experts think is a vast underestimation.
New Delhi, India’s sprawling capital of 20 million, is suffering a calamitous surge. A few days ago, the positivity rate hit a staggering 36 percent-- meaning more than one out of three people tested were infected. A month ago, it was less than 3 percent.
The infections have spread so fast that hospitals have been completely swamped. People are turned away by the thousands. Medicine is running out. So is lifesaving oxygen. The sick have been left stranded in interminable lines at hospital gates or at home, literally gasping for air.
India isn't an abstraction for me. I've been there many time and sometimes for long stretched. The first times in 1970 and I stayed for over year and drove my van around the entire country-- from the Punjab to Delhi, Mumbai (then still Bombay), down the west coast to Goa and Kerala to the tip an, after a couple of months in Sri Lanka-- still Ceylon then-- up the east coast to Pondicherry, Madras (now Chennai) and Calcutta (now Kolkata) and across to Patna, Benares, into Nepal for a fee months and then back to Delhi. I rarely meet an India who's been to as many places in India as I've been. And one thing I;'ll never forget is the air pollution. I had never seen anything like it before. You could always see the air in Delhi most times I was there.
Breathing in places like Delhi is like smoking a pack of cigarettes a couple times a day. Gettleman didn't mention the pollution. He's finding other factors to blames the catastrophe on: "A new variant known here as “the double mutant” may be doing a lot of the damage. The science is still early but from what we know, this variant contains one mutation that may make the virus more contagious and another that may make it partially resistant to vaccines. Doctors are pretty scared. Some we have spoken to said they had been vaccinated twice and still got seriously ill, a very bad sign... However difficult and dangerous it feels in Delhi for all of us, it’s probably going to get worse. Epidemiologists say the numbers will keep climbing, to 500,000 reported cases a day nationwide and as many as one million Indians dead from Covid-19 by August."
Last October the European Society of Cardiology warned that long-term exposure to air pollution was substantially increasing COVID deaths and was responsible at the time for around 15% of the deaths worldwide--although as such as 27% in East Asia.
Three months later the American Lung Association warned that "people living in areas with unhealthy levels of air pollution are facing multiple threats to their lung health... [and] emerging research is shedding light on the links between air pollution and severe illness from COVID-19." And last week, Al Jazeera noted that 22 of the world’s most polluted cities are in India, where "deadly air plus COVID-19 is putting millions of people at risk-- just by breathing."