Corona Notes: Uncertainty Grips Odia Community In Badly-Hit USA

As a dreaded virus spreads its tentacles across the world, it is imperative to share experiences and learnings for benefit of different communities. In this Odisha Bytes special series titled Corona Notes, we would publish articles by people residing in different countries and continents on how they are coping with the COVID challenge.

It is spring in New Jersey (NJ) now. The trees are gradually turning green after having shed all their leaves in fall. You can see that in the picture. Schools have taken a break from online education and are on spring break. Life here has come to a standstill because of COVID-19.

The streets, you now see empty, would have actually been full of kids and adults moving around. All New Jerseyans are under lockdown orders. Everything is closed except essential businesses.

We can go out for groceries and stuff as long as it is essential. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has recommended wearing face masks when out in public. Most NJ people have really abided by that. Most of us order everything online and when packages come we disinfect them outside the house and then bring them in. Some of us even leave it outside or in the garage for a couple of days and then bring them in.

The rest of the day is spent at home with family. We have not had a problem yet with that. We do go out for walks but only within the community. Rarely do you find anyone socializing; not even with next-door neighbours.

Medical support for COVID

We have a great 911 dialling system in place which can arrive at your house within 5 to 7 minutes when you call them. They will look at your condition, provide initial treatment going by your condition and advise you about further treatment, if required.

We do have testing centres but we can get tested only if we meet certain criteria. We need to check with our PCP (personal care provider) first and only go for testing if they recommend.

Initially, testing was slow but then gradually it was ramped up. The people most affected are senior citizens living in clusters like nursing homes etc and people with underlying conditions, though you do hear about some cases affecting the young, especially frontline healthcare workers.

Two people passed away from a senior centre behind my house two weeks ago. New York City (NYC) is very badly hit because it is densely populated and also because it’s culture supports people from various countries. Many people had gone on vacation to Europe and other countries and had been streaming back into the city last month.

But what is highly commendable is how the city is handling this. The doctors, nurses, paramedics, rescue squad and so many others have been working relentlessly despite initial shortage of PPE equipment etc.

When the New York Governor called for volunteers to help in the hospital, around 90,000 people responded. Some have even died from the virus themselves. Others have recovered from the virus and then gone back to work right away.

This has definitely caught everyone unawares. And we do have shortages of ventilators and stuff but they are trying their best to handle that situation. The government has promised aid to everyone with jobless situation and we have a social security in place that provides for people with job losses because of COVID-19.

NJ, being close to NYC and watching the pandemic hitting hard the entire healthcare system and deaths rising every 24 hours we, the members of the Odia-speaking community are under a bit of uncertainty and stress. Recently, an Odia lady’s death in NJ also displayed the real danger from COVID-19. Still we hope to overcome the horrible things of our lives and I hope US citizens will beat corona and would come victorious.

(The author lives with his spouse and two sons in Princeton, NJ. He is a senior IT consulting advisor)


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