Tampa Bay residents from India 'helpless,' watching COVID crisis unfold

The nightmare scenario Americans once feared is happening in India; a ventilator shortage, jammed intensive care units, and deaths faster than bodies can be buried.

"You want to do so much," said Appanjit Singh, of Westchase. "And you are just helpless."

The stunning spikes in COVID-19 cases rose to almost 400,000 a day and deaths to 4,000 in the country of 1.4 billion people are believed to be caused by a highly transmissible variant

Appanjit is best friends with Harpartap Singh, who are both living with their families in the Tampa Bay area.

They both still have dozens of family members in India who are quarantining. Only 2% of the country is vaccinated.

"In the last few weeks, we have started hearing of cases happening in our family, people we would never think about contracting COVID," said Harpartap Signh. "We have started hearing about deaths of distant relatives as well."

Doctors here are worried, not only about the loss of life, but about the potential for even more dangerous variants to form and spread worldwide.

"That is going to have a serious effect on our ability to vaccinate the rest of the world because India has large vaccine makers," said USF virologist Dr. Michael Teng. "A pandemic is never over until it is over, globally."

Though the US has a much higher vaccination rate, the lesson Appanjit and Harpartap want all of us to take away from India's horrifying spike is to never get complacent with COVID.

"The health care system, the infrastructure wasn't ready, at this volume," said Appanjit Singh. "Nobody was."

Even worse, the numbers - as horrifying as they are - don't tell the whole story. Experts say there are likely significant undercounts. 

"It is so disheartening," said Harpartap Singh. "It is so so depressing."