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When the coronavirus pandemic struck New York City, LaGuardia Community College professor Lucia Fuentes assigned students in her honors biology class to compile all the information they could find about COVID-19. The result was an online multilingual brochure that has become a valuable resource for immigrants. Fuentes has continued the project even after her husband died from complications related to the virus and after she herself survived a bout with the disease. In her grief, she remains committed to her students and is determined to prevent others from getting sick.

A top expert is warning that the coming weeks in India will be “horrible,” as COVID-19 infections and deaths mount with alarming speed and there is no end in sight to the crisis. The country of nearly 1.4 billion has witnessed scenes of people dying outside overwhelmed hospitals and funeral pyres lighting up the night sky. India’s official count of coronavirus cases surpassed 20 million, nearly doubling in the past three months, while deaths officially exceed 220,000. But the true figures are believed to be far higher, the undercount an apparent symptom of the troubles in the health care system.

The world’s fastest pace of spreading infections and the highest daily increase in coronavirus cases are pushing India further into a deepening and deadly health care crisis. India is the world’s second-most populous country, and its size presents extraordinary challenges to fighting COVID-19. It is a major vaccine producer but making enough to protect people will take time. Some 2.7 million vaccine doses are given daily, but that’s still less than 10% of its people who’ve gotten their first shot. Experts also note many opportunities were lost when India experienced a lull in cases late last year and mistakenly thought the worst had passed.

India’s worst-hit and richest state Maharashtra is imposing stricter restrictions for 15 days in an effort to stem the surge of coronavirus infections that is threatening to overcome hospitals. Top state officials stressed that the closure of most industries, businesses, public places and limits on the movement of people doesn't constitute a lockdown. Last year, a sudden nationwide lockdown left millions jobless overnight and since then, state leaders have repeatedly stressed that another lockdown wasn’t on the cards. The distinction did little to allay fears of migrant workers waiting at a Mumbai railway station for a ride home. India has detected over 180,000 new infections in the past 24 hours, about a third in Maharashtra state.

India is experiencing its worst pandemic surge, with average daily infections exceeding 130,000 over the past week. The spike is particularly alarming because India is a major vaccine producer and a critical supplier to the U.N.-backed initiative that aims to help distribute shots fairly. Already the rise in cases has forced India to focus on satisfying its domestic demand — and delay deliveries. When infections began plummeting in India in September, many concluded the worst had passed. Masks and social distancing were abandoned, while the government gave mixed signals about the level of risk. When cases began rising again in February, authorities were left scrambling. 

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