Shortly after giving a May 7 speech detailing the administration’s effort to combat the coronavirus surge in India, Vice President Harris got on the phone for another conversation about the virus’s spread there — this time, with her aunt and uncle in her mother’s home country.
They told her that they were healthy, according to several people with knowledge of the call, but that nearly everyone they knew had a friend or relative battling an infection.
As India has taken on the dubious title of worldwide coronavirus epicenter — with more than 26 million cases and over 307,000 deaths — Harris, the highest-ranking U.S. official of Indian descent in history, is navigating an issue simultaneously personal and political. And the verdict from the Indian American community is mixed.
In the United States, where vaccine doses are plentiful, inoculated Americans now have a green light to gather without masks in most places, a big step toward normalcy. But the country Harris’s mother left in 1958 is struggling with a woefully inadequate vaccination program, as hospital systems collapse under the pressure and thousands die each day, including a world-record 4,500 deaths last Wednesday. Hundreds of bodies have been found floating in the Ganges River.