Vietnamese in US remain wary despite vaccination as Delta variant surges

By Viet Anh   July 24, 2021 | 06:31 pm PT
Vietnamese-Americans living in various U.S. states are taking strict preventive measures to protect themselves and others amid a resurgence in Covid-19 caused by a new variant.

Thu Maulden, an ethnic Vietnamese living in Arkansas, said the state had the highest number of new cases caused by the Delta variant in the country.

Maulden said local authorities underline the importance of mask wearing and social distancing but have not made them mandatory. Some restaurants ask customers to follow the rules but cannot enforce them.

The requirement to wear masks in many U.S. states was removed in April and there are no strict rules amid a raging culture war in which conservatives continue to act as if Covid is some kind of a liberal plot and shun all precautions, egged on by a partisan and polarized media.

As a result, a majority of public activities are perforce normal despite the surge caused by the highly transmissible Delta variant.

But Maulden continues to wear a mask when going out, use hand sanitizers and avoid crowded places. She felt more secure as her husband and some friends also follow those preventative measures.

"I do worry about our safety, therefore I should not be negligent," Maulden said. She has had two shots of the Pfizer vaccine.

She fears the new variant could further delay plans to visit her family in Vietnam. She had to cancel a flight that she booked in March.

As of July 21 the Delta variant accounted for 83 percent of U.S. cases, AP reported.

According to CNN, the rise of the Delta variant comes amid a new uptick in cases and an increase in hospitalizations and deaths, especially in pockets of the country where vaccination rates remain relatively low.

Ninh Pham, who works at a hospital in Missouri, said the state's southwestern part is a Delta variant "hotspot." Central hospitals are "full of Covid patients," 80 percent of them from the southwest, she said.

The state has the lowest ratio in the country of people who had one dose, around 40 percent.

Ninh Pham is in her house in Columbia, Missouri, July, 2021. Photo courtesy of Pham.

Ninh Pham is in her house in Columbia, Missouri, July, 2021. Photo courtesy of Ninh Pham.

Her hospital has tightened regulations on mask wearing and patient screening, and reduced the number of people visiting patients to levels seen during the peak Covid time last year.

Pham has not seen public regulations made stricter since local authorities had eased the rule on mask wearing a month ago. She said with people not supporting them it is not "easy" to lock down again or adopt restrictive measures.

She does not worry too much about her safety since she has had two shots. She is ready to take a third if needed. Yet she wears a mask whenever she goes out, limits contact with others and avoids rush hour at supermarkets.

"Those still are important measures."

In New York, Chung Le said the new variant has caused the number of new cases to rise while it should have decreased thanks to the high vaccination rate.

Fortunately, the situation is not bad in the city though public activities have returned to normal, she said.

Le and her family remain cautious though they had two shots. They not only wear masks when they step out, but also keep a distance from family members who recovered from Covid.

Le feels secure since her neighbors are cautious like hers. They now have a new way to greet each other: "I am fully vaccinated."

Her son in-law’s family has told friends they need to have vaccines to join their party at the end of July.

"We should assume that the other person is infected, that is the point of keeping a distance."

In Seattle, Washington State, Gary Thang Nguyen said the new variant caused an increase of new cases but it has not been serious.

The local government has not yet issued any recommendations for residents, though the media has encouraged people to wear masks and get vaccines. He considers them critical requirements.

Though Washington has a high vaccination rate (around 70 percent), Nguyen remains concerned and hopes people do not overestimate the effectiveness of vaccination and maintain other preventive measures.

"We do not know if the coronavirus will have other variants after Delta."

Derek Pham in California said in mid-July local authorities announced that the number of new cases was over 23,000, a 90 percent increase during the month.

As a result, health officials in Los Angeles State have required people to wear masks even indoors in public places such as offices, restaurants and supermarkets regardless of their vaccination status.

Pham is not worried about his safety thanks to vaccination and a large number of Asian and African people wearing masks in public. He trusts the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's assessment that two doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines keep people safe from the Delta variant.

"I still take preventative measures though I am not anxious like before."

Derek Pham is on a plane in Los Angeles airport, California, July, 2021. Photo courtesy of Pham.

Derek Pham is on a plane in Los Angeles, California, July, 2021. Photo courtesy of Derek Pham.

Not much optimistic about higher vaccination

Ninh Pham in Missouri is not optimistic the vaccination rate in her state will increase in the near future because the extremists are "persistent."

Some of her acquaintances also question the efficacy of vaccines.

The local government is trying hard to encourage people to get vaccinated with various inducements like houses, laptops, tuition waivers, and lotteries, and Pham hopes this would persuade reluctant people.

Le does not think the rate of vaccination will increase in New York or across the country since people are "determined" to reject vaccines.

She said people support former President Trump consider vaccination as "treachery". At the same time, the Biden administration does not want to "push too hard" to gain voters' backing before mid-term election in 2022.

But tougher measures are in the offing by some states and private companies and they could promote vaccination, she said. For instance, Massachusetts State has demanded health workers test once a week if they are not vaccinated by the beginning of August.

In other states, Nguyen, Pham and Maulden hope for the same and said the vaccination rate would soon increase since the increase in Covid incidence would change people’s minds.

"I hope people will be more serious with vaccination as we are seeing the Delta and Lambda variants in the U.S.," Nguyen said.

go to top