The exact number of Covid cases among Guyanese, Trinis, Caribbean people in the US is not known. But once can rest assured that the number of tested positive cases and deaths among Indo-Caribbean Americans, especially New Yorkers, and minorities keep rising. Indo-Caribbeans are in the front lines working in the health sector and as home attendants for the aged and sick as well as in low wage jobs. They are high risks of being exposed to the virus which affects people of all ages and ethnicities. The latest victim is a healthy 32 year old male Indo-Guyanese from greater Richmond Hill sending shock waves in the close knit Indo-Caribbean community.
In interviews, victims say the virus is not a pleasant experience coming with a lot of physical pain. The body aches and one does not have the energy to move, not even to eat. Yet if one does not move and engage in some physical activity, in the early stage of the virus, one will become another fatal statistic.
Every effort must be made to reduce the rate of infection. And the way to do it is to be smart – limit public exposure to others (no one knows who is a carrier of the virus), wear face masks, and consume a lot of hot liquids that seem to be working to deter the virus. If one feels he is exposed to the virus or has the virus, self-quarantine so as not to infect others.Based on interactions I have had with many Guyanese, the active numbers run in the hundreds and deaths somewhere pass 100 if not substantially higher. Trinis Almost everyone I interacted with since mid March knows of several individuals who had or have the virus and or who died from symptoms; the dead has to wait weeks for final rites as funeral homes are overwhelmed. Hardly any funeral is held less than three weeks from death. Relatives as well as friends of mine passed away and at least dozens more are afflicted with the disease and others recovered from it. That is just what I know of people close to me (in NY alone) and there may be several cases not revealed to me. Imagine the same for each other prominent Indo-Caribbeans and many more cases in other parts of the US like Florida, Georgia, New Jersey, Minnesota, Texas. Several people want their illness to be hidden feeling ashamed so that others won’t know they have the virus fearing they would be avoided like a plague; there is nothing to be ashamed of if one gets the virus. Anyone can get it and it is better to inform people rather than hide it.
The affliction rate among Guyanese is very high as it would also be for Trinis and other immigrant communities. There are over four hundred thousands Indo Guyanese and their American born siblings in the US. The rate of infection of a country’s population varies between 0.3% to 3%; some ethnic communities have a higher infection rate. If just around one percent of the Guyanese American population is infected and or died, then at least 4,000 would have been stricken by the virus. The US has a death rate of 5% of infections. That would translate to about 200 deaths among Indo-Guyanese alone. Trinis also have a high rate of infection and deaths. No community is spared except the very wealthy.Some communities in the US have a higher infection and or death rates in the US. Why? Poverty and other factors impact on infection rate. In the early weeks of the virus, Black leaders, for example, said Corona is a white man disease that won’t affect Blacks. So Blacks in early weeks did not take precaution. That impacted on the infection rate among Blacks that exceeds 30%. Hispanics is over 25%. Asians including Indians (Indo-Caribbeans included) is just under 7%.
Immigrant communities and people of color, especially in bigger cities, because of lower incomes and inadequate habitable space in their living quarters, tend to cluster and infect one another. They can’t afford large living quarters like higher income earners. A family has several members (on average five with some even larger) living in a small housing unit (a two bedroom apartment or a private house). There is limited room for self isolation, quarantine, and separation from other members of the family. In one Guyanese household I know, for example, some twelve members (an extended family) got covid living on the first floor and basement plus five members of the tenant on the second floor. One member got covid from dialysis and infected everyone else in the building. Anyone who works or visits a health center or hospital or a senior nursing home or gets dialysis or even just go to work (using mass transit) is a high risk for covid. One female picked up the virus on the train and spreads it to five other members of her family. It is best to avoid other family members if one has a high risk of exposure. When one member of a family is infected, he or she becomes a carrier and unknowingly spreads covid around. Among other ethnic groups, high income earners who work don’t return home; they rent apartments or stay in a hotel. Guyanese or other immigrant low wage earners cannot afford to live in a second apartment away from other family members.
Among Guyanese Americans, and in particular among lower income people who have small housing units, and or big families, there is not much space in an accommodation unit to practice social distancing. The risk of infection is very high. This is one reason for a high covid rate. When a family member is stricken, others seek to tend to him or her and in the process become infected. Many, many Guyanese families have been infected in this way. I know a case of a father attending to his adult married son with his own family, who instead of going home to his family, came to the father’s house and self-isolate in the basement. The father, attending to him, got the virus spending twelve days on a ventilator; he and the son survive. Close family contact is one reason why the rate of infection among Guyanese and minorities is very high and rising. Guyanese New Yorkers living in large private houses have a lower rate of infection rate than those living in apartments. Some family members don’t have a choice but to go to work to earn money for the rent or mortgage or just to feed the family; they are at risk. Illegal immigrants would not be paid unless they work and are greater risks of covid. Professionals like me are paid for staying at or working from home. Many Guyanese, in the tens of thousands, in Queens and Bronx are first responders (working in health care or home care) and several contract the virus from contacts with patients.To limit the spread of infection it is very critical to limit outside contact – do not go out unless very important (like to get food or survival medicine). Take precaution (wear face masks, avoid conversations, don’t socialize, use alcohol or some other disinfectant on the hands after touching something, and when back at home, wash with soap and hot water. Most importantly, drink hot tea or liquid throughout the course of the day. Stay safe!