US Vietnamese diaspora see light at end of Covid-19 tunnel

By Viet Anh   February 18, 2021 | 08:45 pm PT
Vietnamese in the U.S. see hopeful signs as more people abide by Covid-19 safety measures and a vaccination program gets underway.

On February 15, CNN reported more than 53,800 new Covid-19 infections in the U.S., its lowest daily case count since October 2020 and a vastly different number from just the previous month, when infections were topping 200,000 a day.

The number of new cases remained under 80,000 for the fourth day in a row Wednesday, while hospitalizations fell to their lowest level since November 10. The number of Covid-19 patients requiring treatment in intensive-care units (ICU) also fell, to 13,103, the sixth consecutive day the total has been below 15,000.

Travelers wearing protective face masks at the airport in Denver, Colorado, U.S., November 24, 2020. Photo by Reuters.

Travelers wearing protective face masks at the airport in Denver, Colorado, U.S., November 24, 2020. Photo by Reuters.

There were other signs that the pandemic situation was improving.

"The situation in California is getting better, with the number of patients in ICU declining," said Ton That Binh, a Vietnamese man working in the medical sector in San Jose.

He guessed that the state's pandemic level could move soon from purple (widespread) to red (substantial). Under California's color code, purple is applied for counties with more than seven daily new cases per 100,000 residents or a higher than 8 percent positivity rate; and red means four to seven new cases per 100,000, or a 5-8 percent positivity rate.

Binh felt a key reason for the improvement was the higher numbers of people wearing masks and following social distancing rules. Also, herd immunity may have occurred in several areas where the number of cases was high enough.

Remarkably, Americans have not had big crowd gatherings and protests since the inauguration of President Joe Biden, another factor leading to the declining cases.

However, Binh also feared that the situation could be reversed in the next few weeks because of winter storms and power cuts; and a further case reduction could only be seen in the spring.

Nguyen Quynh, a staff at the University of Missouri, Missouri, said Columbia City recorded an infection rate of 2.25 cases/1,000 residents on February 18, lower than the proportion of seven cases/1,000 in mid January. Consequently, students could go back to school and patients in medical centers could meet one family member.

Quynh thought vaccination was a key factor in helping reduce infections in her city. Not only were more and more people getting injected, people were wearing masks everywhere and working more from home.

Ninh Pham, a medical interpreter at the Fulton State Hospital in Missouri, said it seemed that doctors now understand the virus better and had come up with different methods of treating it, and there was increased availability of personal protective equipments (PPE). As a result, the number of patients in ICUs was reducing.

Ninh also believed that the pandemic situation was gradually coming under control, with the "anti-mask attitude" no longer mainstream as it was last year. The Biden's administration is boosting scientific support for the community, she felt.

In Illinois, Nguyen Trung, with the University of Chicago, presumed that the smaller number of infections was an outcome of fewer people traveling after the Christmas and New Year holidays at the end of last year.

He said the habit of wearing masks and washing hands frequently has improved his family’s health, no one getting sick recently. In general, people's voluntary actions were the most important factor in containing the Covid-19 pandemic, Trung said. Some were complying with the rules because they do not want violations listed on their CV, reducing their employment chances later, he added.

Vaccination side effects

Trung admitted that he’d been quite reluctant to take the Covid-19 vaccine at the beginning because he’d heard about dangerous side effects. Then he thought he should consider vaccination a benefit he is getting because his work is related to the Chicago University’s hospital. He got the two doses of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in mid December 2020 and mid January 2021.

He suffered fatigue, headache and nausea after the first shot and a mild fever after the second one. The symptoms lasted for about 24 hours.

Since then, he was "confident that the vaccine will bring positive results in Covid-19 controlling in the U.S."

Most states in the U.S. are giving vaccination priority to people on the frontline in the Covid-19 fight, including medical staff, police and people over 65.

Quynh in Missouri said she felt good after receiving two doses except for achy muscles on the arm that received the shot. She did acknowledge that others have had more serious side effects depending on their physical condition.

Ninh, who has had one dose, felt grateful for the advancement of science and hoped that the second shot next week would be fine for her. She has never had any allergic reactions to medicines before, she said.

In California, Binh noted that vaccinated people still carry the risk of transmitting the virus, so they should use masks and keep distance from others. These are critical measures in reducing infection cases, while vaccines help to decrease the number of deaths, he said.

Le Tuan Anh, a freelance photographer in New York, expected to get vaccinated early April following the priority order because he is under 65.

On Feb 16, a CNN report said that the U.S. was still months away from having most Americans vaccinated. About 14 million Americans have been fully vaccinated with both doses of their Covid-19 vaccines. That's only about 4 percent of the U.S. population. And it takes weeks for vaccines to fully kick in. More than 11 percent of Americans have received at least one dose of a vaccine.

A USA Today report quoted Jeff Zients, White House Covid-19 response coordinator, as saying the U.S. was on track to have enough vaccine supply for 300 million Americans by the end of July.

Cautious optimism

Tuan Anh noted that the number of infections in the U.S. was still high and state authorities were under pressure as they pondered whether or not to open up the localities. Businesses and employees were in financial difficulties.

In addition, he worried the pandemic would be hard to contain worldwide without enough effective vaccines for poor countries.

Quynh was also cautiously optimistic. She hoped to see that vaccination program speeded up in the U.S., with the government playing a key role. She also wanted to see a safe opening for businesses and workers in many sectors. Furthermore, research on the vaccines' sustainable effectiveness should be enhanced to remove people’s doubts, she said.

"If vaccines do not have long-lasting effects, the early economic opening up could be counter-productive."

However, William Le, living in Sacramento, California, expressed his optimism about the new policies. He felt people were obeying the social distancing rules because they were getting support packages from the government. More packages were coming, he’d heard. Small and medium enterprises were getting various assistance programs at state level.

"I see a very promising recovery in the coming time," he said.

Ninh described the situation in the U.S. as "a light at the end of the tunnel" as the administration boosted the vaccination program to achieve real herd immunity in the near future. She looked forward to normal life returning before Christmas this year as President Biden has forecast.

"I want to see nothing more than that."

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