“In my mind I’m still back in India and I’m struggling along with my countrymen.”
That’s the view of Ritu Budakoti, a Keene resident concerned about the radical surge in coronavirus cases in India. Her words, in a report this past weekend, serve as a reminder that disasters anywhere across the globe can be felt strongly here in the Monadnock Region. Neighbors, coworkers, friends and family in today’s world may have close ties to those on the other side of the world.
Between the advent of instant communications, the ease of worldwide travel and the growing dependency on foreign markets for businesses of all types, the world is effectively shrinking in degrees of separation. We know people from all backgrounds, or we know people who know those people.
That means we ought to feel the pain of the current pandemic surge in India, or the previous wave in Brazil — not to mention Sweden, The Netherlands, Uruguay, Argentina, Mongolia — just as if they were occurring in Texas, Iowa or North Carolina.
In fact, the physical distance that separates us from those nations and cultures offers less protection than one might think. As we saw a year ago, and had seen previously with the viral Ebola outbreak, the ease of international travel means a virus in India or China or Africa could be on our doorstep in a matter of hours. Even with travel restrictions in place, as they were in the winter of 2020, too many people move from country to country, often taking roundabout routes from one place to another. Restrict air travel from India to the U.S.? Well, what about the person flying here from Japan, who was in India days earlier? Add in the weekslong period in which those carrying the virus may remain asymptomatic, and you can easily see the possibilities.
Right now, things are looking up in the United States, as more people are being vaccinated and case numbers/hospitalizations/deaths are trending positively. But thinking the pandemic is “over” before it’s under control everywhere would be foolish.
It’s been a long, frustrating slog of more than a year now; but to act as if this is no longer a very contagious, potentially deadly — and in many cases irreparably harmful even when not fatal — virus at this point threatens to set us up for a new wave of cases.
Further, we need to stand ready to offer help to others fighting the same battle, wherever they are, until the virus is truly under control.
Or, as Cheshire Medical Center’s infectious disease specialist Dr. Aalok Khole, a Mumbai native, put it:
“This is where it’s key to look at this as a humanitarian crisis, and not as the world just signing off. This may very well be a situation in other countries when you least expect it. We cannot be cushioned by the fact that we look great.”