Milwaukee-area residents anxious for families in India as U.S. restricts travel

Posted at 6:40 PM, Apr 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-03 11:36:03-04

MILWAUKEE — The White House says the United States will restrict travel from India starting on May 4.

Many South Asians in southeast Wisconsin are grappling with the effects it could possibly have on their families back home in India. Kiran Sagar has been anxiously keeping tabs on the situation, as are her siblings in India.

"Well, it's very hard to watch," Sagar says.

The Biden administration cited the devastating rise in COVID-19 cases in the South Asian country and the emergency of potentially dangerous variants of the coronavirus.

Luckily, Noman Hussain, who works as an Imam at the Brookfield mosque, was able to return safely from India during his trip just four weeks ago. Hussain's parents had been traveling to India last March of 2020 to celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary, but due to the pandemic, they could not return home.

During this time, his father became ill and passed away.

"This is why I was in India just about four weeks ago, to pay my respects. We had to wait it out until we got our vaccines," said Hussain.

The U.S. action comes days after Biden spoke with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi about the growing health crisis in his country and pledged to send assistance.

The country is in desperate need of supplies. Hospitals are stretched thin as they experience a major shortage of beds and oxygen.

"People are just desperate people are in need. The cremation centers are backed up, everybody's lying on the streets, people are just terrified and scared and worried because of the lack of resources that they have right now," says Noman Hussain.

According to the New York Times, India's outbreak is said to be from a variant known as the B.1.617, containing two mutations found in separate strains. An online appeal — signed by over 350 scientists Friday afternoon — asks the government to release data about the sequencing of virus variants, testing, recovered patients and how people were responding to vaccines.

Locally, corporations like GE Healthcare, Blue Yonder and Rockwell Automation are stepping up to send supplies, releasing the following statements:

“Our thoughts and hearts are with the people of India, home to many GE Healthcare employees. We’ve made it clear that they have our total support in trying times, and as the nations of the world respond, so does GE Healthcare. Our Anesthesia and Respiratory business is working with tremendous speed to address the demand coming from the region. Our employee resource groups are providing volunteers to connect people in need with assistance. And the GE Medical Center is offering teleconsultation support to connect patients with doctors and resources. Hundreds of GE Healthcare family members have gained assistance so far, and we remain committed to our colleagues.”
~ GE Healthcare Spokesperson

Rockwell Automation employs 1,500 in India and has stated that their teams are working remotely. The company says they are also sending oxygen supplies to India.

Rockwell Automation has 1,500 employees in India, including many who have continued to work remotely throughout the course of the pandemic. To say these are difficult times for our India-based employees and their families would be an understatement. To help them, we are sending oxygen concentrators and also taking strict precautions to keep them safe and healthy while investing in charitable vaccination programs. We are grateful for our Indian employees’ many contributions and proud of the role Rockwell products and technology have played in the development of every major vaccine. - Marci Pelzer, Director of Global External Communications at Rockwell Automation

With more than 2,500 associates working in India, Blue Yonder, a software company that has an office in Waukesha, has been able to sponsor 100 units of oxygen concentrators and 50 patient monitors for hospitals through the International Association for Human Values.

Our hearts go out to the country of India and its people. India is very key to Blue Yonder, with a very large presence of more than 2,500 associates who are based there. To help with the current situation, we are working with our long-time partner, the International Association for Human Values (IAHV). So far we have been able to sponsor the donation of 100 units of oxygen concentrators (each containing 10 liter capacity) and 50 G30E patient monitors for hospitals in India. We continue to look for other ways to help the community and pray for the health and safety of all. In addition to supporting the community we are also providing support to our associates and initiating vaccination drives to help accelerate the vaccination efforts. - Nathalie Carruthers, Blue Yonder’s Executive Vice President and Chief Associate Success Officer

India now has reported more than 18.7 million cases since the pandemic began, second only to the U.S. The country set another global record Friday, with 386,452 daily coronavirus cases. The Health Ministry also reported 3,498 deaths in the last 24 hours, bringing the total to 208,330.

Experts believe both of those figures are undercounted, but it’s unclear by how much.

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