Vietnamese in US divided in response to Covid-19

By Anh Ngoc   December 8, 2020 | 05:23 pm PT
Many Vietnamese-Americans take precautions against Covid-19 but not all, with some even buying into the Republicans’ politicization of the pandemic.

Thomas Nguyen, 30, of Boston, Massachusetts state, says since March he has been working from home, avoiding public and crowded places, wearing masks, using hand sanitizers, and following the two-meters social distancing requirement.

The man, who works at the stock market, says most people know they will have to "bite the bullet" to co-exist with the pandemic.

But asked about those rejecting masks, he pulls out that old American chestnut about it being their "right" and how no one can "force" them to protect themselves or keep others safe.

The U.S. remains the world’s biggest coronavirus hotspot, with over 14.3 million cases and 279,000 deaths.

In November alone more than 37,000 people died.

But for Nguyen, a Trump supporter, would have none of that.

"I do not know where they got those numbers from. The Democratic Party controls the media.

A street scene in Del Mar, California, the U.S., on July 30, 2020. Photo by Reuters//Mike Blake.

A street scene in Del Mar, California, the U.S., on July 30, 2020. Photo by Reuters//Mike Blake.

Some of his friends have been infected by the novel coronavirus and had flu-like symptoms before getting better in a week by staying at home and following doctors’ instructions.

But he always tells his parents, who are over 60, to be cautious.

His family sometimes goes to the supermarket to stock up on food. Most things are ordered on websites and sanitized when they arrive. They did not go out or have a Thanksgiving party and plan to do the same for Christmas.

They are by no means a minority. A pre-Thanksgiving Day poll by Deloitte last month found 74 percent of people planning to shop online to avoid crowds and 57 percent fearful of shopping in stores due to the pandemic.

Dr Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, has warned against traveling, saying it raises the possibility of a "surge superimposed on a surge."

CDC chief Robert Redfield feared Americans would have a "rough time" in the coming winter.

"I actually believe they’re going to be the most difficult time in the public health history of this nation," he said referring to December through February.

The country might have 1,500 - 2,500 deaths a day, but the numbers do not worry Phuong Doan of Saint Louis, Missouri state.

"The pandemic has been serious in the last few months, but we have prepared for this from the beginning," she said.

"We consider the pandemic a challenge that we will have to overcome sooner or later."

Earlier this year, when the pandemic first broke out, she was stressed and worried about the infection risk and the fact it might be taking a psychological toll on her children since they were not going to school and had no contact with their friends for long.

"They got angry easily," she said.

Adults faced similar challenges if they lose their jobs, she said.

As the children have returned to school in September, the woman and her husband have more time for their work and social activities.

"We have got used to life during the pandemic and find ways to balance it. Our biggest concern is how to maintain our financial stability as the long pandemic may hurt the economy, and we have to prepare for the worst."

A coronavirus advisory at the Citadel Outlet mall in Commerce, California state, on December 3, 2020. Photo by Reuters/Lucy Nicholson.

A coronavirus advisory at the Citadel Outlet mall in Commerce, California state, on December 3, 2020. Photo by Reuters/Lucy Nicholson.

It is a refrain among Vietnamese-Americans that living with the pandemic for months has made them get used to it.

But many have become lax and let down their guards, according to Luong Ta of Orange Country, California state.

Many Vietnamese tell others that Covid-19 is just like common flu, and there is nothing to worry about, he said.

"They go to crowded restaurants without hesitation. They gather and party."

Many also join the protests against the U.S. presidential election that President Donald Trump keeps claiming was fraudulent without producing a shred of evidence so far.

"I would rather get Covid-19 than accept Joe Biden," posters carried by Vietnamese have said.

But Ta and his wife protect themselves and their children carefully from the virus.

"My children study remotely, and our Thanksgiving party was smaller than usual," he said.

Dr Ngo Ba Dinh, who has worked for more than 23 years at Fountain Valley Hospital in Orange District, said the Vietnamese diaspora is divided on the pandemic.

Most of them are older adults and so are afraid of the virus and respect science and do not take risks, he said.

But a minority has rejected all this, he said.

"They think Covid-19 is not real or it is just the common flu or a hoax perpetrated by the Democratic Party."

In the city of Huntington Beach, where he lives, there have been weekly protests against Governor Gavin Newsom’s curfew order and the election results.

"I have seen groups of Vietnamese gather, sing and dance without wearing masks or maintain social distance; they even shared one microphone."

Recently a Vietnamese family had nine members infected, and the father died while the mother is moribund, he said.

More than 500,000 people could die of Covid-19 by early spring despite the availability of a vaccine by then, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington in Seattle has warned.

In California, Newsom has announced stringent new measures to prevent a surge in cases from overwhelming hospitals. They would be triggered when hospitals’ intensive care capacity falls below 15 percent.

Dinh’s hospital admits one to four seriously ill Covid-19 patients who need ventilators every day. But otherwise most patients show minor symptoms and are told to stay at home.

Dinh himself contracted the virus from his patients despite donning two masks and a face shield, but recovered in two weeks.

With the rallies and protests over the election and Thanksgiving, he expected the number of deaths to spike in the next four weeks.

He said wearing masks is a simple way to contain the spread of the virus as countries like Vietnam and New Zealand have shown.

"We only need to wear masks for 100 days as President-Elect Biden suggested, and the situation will be better."

He said wearing masks do not take away anyone’s freedom and should not be politicized.

Dr Ngo Ba Dinh at Fountain Valley Hospital in Orange District, California, the U.S. Photo courtesy of Ngo Ba Dinh.

Dr Ngo Ba Dinh at Fountain Valley Hospital in Orange District, California, the U.S. Photo courtesy of Ngo Ba Dinh.

He wanted people to think about their community, reduce the burden on the medical system and contribute to the fight against the pandemic.

Viet Pham, owner of a restaurant in Fountain Valley city, hoped the Vietnamese diaspora in the U.S would unite to overcome the ordeal. His restaurant was closed earlier but is now allowed to open outside, and business is down 70 percent.

He said: "The pandemic hit people all over the world. People are worried, depressed and bored. Businessmen like me face more instability, but we have to reunite to get over this."

Pham and his friends have been giving away free food every Sunday since March.

They have given 25,000 meals to students and older, homeless and disabled people.

"We set an example and hope people will follow us. Together, we will get through this crisis."

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