In a more perfect world, the death of Rutgers University’s Dr. Rajendra Kapila, 81, in India on April 28 from COVID could be a kind of flare to illuminate through the darkness of where we really are on a planet in a pandemic we continue to manage so provincially and with so much hubris.
Globally, the World Health Organization reported, the planet had seen 160,074,257 confirmed cases and recorded 3,325,260 deaths. Roughly, 1.27 billion vaccine doses have been administered on our planet which has 7.8 billion people.
According to published reports, Dr. Kapila, one of the world’s leading experts in infectious disease, had been fully vaccinated prior to his trip to help care for his family caught up in catastrophic spike in COVID in India.
Here in New Jersey, the two mayoral candidates of Indian heritage, locked in Edison’s fractious June Primary, managed to find common ground in expressing their admiration for Dr. Kapila to Insider NJ.
“Dr. Kapila devoted his life to helping others and saving lives and the contributions that he made to the
field of medicine will live on forever,” said Council Vice President Sam Joshi in a statement.
“Dr. Rajendra Kapila has dedicated 50 years of his life to medicine and his teaching will go down in the history of Medicine,” wrote local Democratic chair Mahesh Bhagia. “We acknowledge his death was a devastating loss for the people of New Jersey.”
Press accounts quoted family members as confirming he also suffered
from diabetes as well as heart complications and had planned on flying back home to New Jersey in the middle of April but was hospitalized.
Dr. Kapila, who by all accounts had a brilliant medical mind and generous spirit, was the founding member of New Jersey Infectious Disease Society.
The nation of one billion people has reportedly recorded over 4,200 COVID deaths a day and is generating a mind numbing 300,000 new cases daily on average.
The BBC reported that in Delhi, “the authorities have reportedly cut down trees in city parks for use as kindling on funeral pyres.” Hospitals are running out of oxygen and melting down under the weight of the frantic demand for basic healthcare services.
Meanwhile, in a parallel universe, Governors Murphy and Cuomo hail the progress captured in their daily COVID dashboard as a sign we are beating back the highly contagious and deadly virus. We’re paint a collective happy face anticipating a ‘return to normal spring’ and we pick out our box seats at the ballpark.
The rest of the planet, not so much.
In the last few months, with competent national leadership, America appears to be turning a corner on the virus, yet in other parts of the world like Brazil and India, leaders with a case of Trumpian narcissism, are trying to bluff their way past a mass death event.
This isn’t just their problem.
Foreign Policy reported that it was just on Jan. 28, that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi bragged to the Davos World Economic Forum his nation adverted a planetary catastrophe by “containing the coronavirus effectively.”
In a story headlined “Modi Fiddles While India Burns”, FP describes India’s “devastating carnage precipitated by its self-enamored leader” whose government is putting out “a scandalous undercount” of a “true figure that could be 20 times” higher.
In a moving May 13 New York Daily News op-ed, Vijay Prishad likened Modi’s Davos curtain call “a little bit like George W. Bush’s speech about Iraq made in front of a ‘Mission Accomplished’ banner.
Prishad notes the “very special and agonizing irony” that India has supplied so many of the world’s physicians, including the U.S., where “one in every 20 practicing physicians” is Indian.
“These physicians, who know exactly how the virus stalks its prey, are watching the nation and the people they love literally struggle to breathe,” writes Prishad. “Atop that, you’d think that India would be able to vaccinate its population, since India produces 60% of the world’s vaccines. And yet. Yet, the Indian government only spends 1.3% of its Gross Domestic Product on the health care system, as the Indian government treats its front-line public health workers as ‘volunteers’”.
In Brazil, NBC News reports, that country’s right-wing leader “President Jair Bolsonaro, who has opposed lockdowns, has held large events where he often does not wear a mask. He has only recently embraced vaccines as a possible solution.”
NBC reported that Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders), told reporters that more “than one year into the Covid-19 pandemic, the failed response in Brazil has caused a humanitarian catastrophe. Each week there is a grim new record of deaths and infections — the hospitals are overflowing, and yet there is still no coordinated centralized response.”
Brazil, with well over 400,000 deaths, is now battling an uptick in pediatric COVID deaths, according to the BBC.
Overwhelmingly, the way COVID is reported on here fixates myopically on the U.S. numbers. But combating a global pandemic, like global warming, has to be transborder operation.
What worries public health experts is that the more ground and the more bodies COVID claims the greater the risk to all of humanity that variants will get traction and spread with dire consequences for the entire planet.
On May 5, President Biden announced that the U.S. would endorse waiving the intellectual property rights that gave big pharma exclusive control over the coronavirus vaccines, signaling the U.S. was at long last prioritizing people over pharma profits.
The New York Times described the U.S. as “a major holdout” at the World Trade Organization against suspending some of the WTO’s intellectual property protections, which allows prevents access “to the closely guarded trade secrets of how the viable vaccines have been made.”
In a statement, Katherine Tai, the United States trade representative, described the current pandemic as “extraordinary circumstances” that required “extraordinary measures.”
Let’s pray and hope, for the world’s sake, this shift in consciousness did not come too late.