Trans-regional covid-19 solidarity and collaboration by Armenian physicians

U.S. based Armenian physicians are engaged in providing Armenia all the assistance they can . For example, they have shared the technology that converts anesthesia devices into breathing equipment . Furthermore, they have also established a network of information sharing and support between Armenia and healthcare experts based in cities where there are substantial number of Armenian residents including Los Angeles, New York, Boston, Toronto , Montreal , Paris, London , Lyon, Moscow and Buenos Aires


The United States of America ranks first in the world with respect to the number of cases and deaths ( as of March 31st at over 300,000/ over 8,000 ) caused by the worldwide catastrophe , the coronavirus ( COVID-19) . The main impact of the pandemic is being experienced in the New York and New Jersey region. Nevertheless, a large increase is being expected in Western U.S., specifically in California, Washington and Colorado  in the coming days and weeks. According to a study conducted by Washington University , the U.S. will reach the peak or  apex of the pandemic on or about April 15th with 2,200 deaths per day.  While these are scientific predictions or probabilities ,  they are naturally neither certain nor guaranteed given the potential changes in the variables involved.  

Based on these  reasonable expectations and as a precaution the ports of New York and Los Angeles welcomed the giant hospital ships of the U.S. Navy , Comfort and Mercy. Each one has the capacity of 1,000 hospital beds and 12 surgical operation rooms . Since the land based hospital rooms are fully expected to be used exclusively as Intensive Care Units equipped with ventilators and oxygen devices , the ships , along with convention centers and large parks may be used for all other type of emergency medical treatment, using the capabilities of the United States Military and the Corps of Engineers . Of course, that is all subject to change based upon the realities and circumstances. 

Situation in Los Angeles

Within the County of Los Angeles, the City of Glendale is where the largest Armenian community is based, and its hospitals are about to exceed their capacity .  The number of coronavirus cases have hit 154 and the demand for supplies , including  masks, gloves , test kits but most importantly respirators and ventilators are critically high . The normal provision of health services , elective surgeries are all suspended. Most doctor offices are converted to tele-medicine providers. In order to prevent the spread of the virus , COVID-19 tests are performed in tests outside the Emergency Rooms. Patients who don’t have difficulty breathing are normally being sent home and retired physicians have been called back to service. 

In an announcement he made on March 30 th , the Mayor of  Glendale Ara Najarian emphasized the critical nature of the situation and warned the population to not leave their homes, pleaded with them to not go out with their friends, play cards with their neighbors or hang out in front of Starbucks . Beaches, many parks and parking lots are all closed off currently and if the larger Los Angeles population does not heed the quasi advisory orders  , authorities may  have to resort to using stricter law enforcement powers to compel compliance and quarantine the whole City . 

Currently many businesses are closed , unemployment is rising rapidly , most courts and  access to justice are at minimal function , evictions and foreclosures suspended and prisons unable to comply with social distance recommendations by health authorities .Downtown LA’s version of the famed  Covered Bazaar of Istanbul, the shops and buildings of perhaps  the world’s largest jewelry district, where many Istanbul Armenians own businesses,  are totally shut down . 

The 2 Trillion Dollar Economic Rescue and Stimulus package which passed through Congress overwhelmingly and signed into law by President Trump may appear to  offer  some much needed relief to the suddenly unemployed as well large and small businesses , as well as self- employed members of the gig economy ; but that is not enough money to last the foreseeable future and more will be needed to keep the economy on life support .  The same package included $274 million assistance to high risk foreign countries ,which include the Republic of Armenia with a $1.1 million for the fight against COVID-19. Efforts led by ANCA and other Armenian advocacy groups are continuing to lobby Washington   for a larger amount of the much needed  assistance . 

Medical Support to Armenia 

The medical organizations based in Los Angeles - the city where outside Armenia and probably  Russia- most Armenian physicians reside , while serving the needs of their local communities  are also doing their best to support and contribute to Armenia’s struggle against the coronavirus . According to an interview we conducted with one of the leaders of this group, Dr Vicken Sepilian, the Chairman of the Armenian Medical International Committee (AMIC)  and Board member of the Armenian American Medical Society ( AAMS)  these efforts have been continuing since embarked upon back in the month of  January . 
They are in constant contact and in collaboration with the young and dynamic leadership of the Armenian Ministry of Health and the Chief of Staff of the High Commission of Diaspora Affairs, Sara Anjargolian  . In addition , a network of information sharing and support between Armenia and healthcare experts based in cities with large Armenian residents such as Los Angeles, New York , Boston , Toronto , Montreal , Paris , London, Lyon, Moscow and Buenos Aires has been established .  The network of solidarity  is engaged in teleconferencing as well as webinars on a frequent basis  and keeps up with the daily developments and the newly acquired expertise related to this novel pandemic  disease  . 

In early March they were able to supply Armenia with one ton of much needed medical supplies with the crucial assistance Craig Boyrazian, the Executive Director of the Armenia Fund in Western United States . At the present time the capacity to obtain the much needed test kits and ventilators is not present . Even the States within the Union of the U.S. are competing with each other and the federal government to obtain those. The “pro-business” President Trump, after failing to persuade the General Motors Company to voluntarily produce ventilators , ended up resorting to his emergency war time like powers to compel and force GM to do the same. 

Despite the very difficult challenges Armenian doctors in the U.S.A. are doing the best they possibly can to assist Armenia. For example, they shared the available technology that converts anesthesia devices into breathing equipment  with the Ministry of Health of Armenia . Dr. Sepilian stated that while they continue to work with the authorities in Armenia in great harmony , they try to strike a balance in their support and refrain from making treatment recommendations that would be impossible to implement in Armenia. 

At the same time, locally, Armenian doctors continue to inform and warn the public and their colleagues as to the new developments , dangers and obstacles related to this pandemic . Intense efforts are made , especially with regards to reaching the segment of the public that speaks armenian only . This is accomplished via Armenian tv channels and social media platforms, and the leadership of the doctors also  supplements the efforts of many other community based organizations and committees dedicated to the same purpose. 

As we head towards the Presidential Elections 

Even though the coronavirus pandemic has thrown the election process into the backburner within the public sphere, we cannot end this column without touching on it , albeit slightly. It looks almost to be a certainty that the Democratic Nominee who will be challenging President Trump in November shall be Joe Biden. Despite the fact that most primaries are postponed till June, the delegate difference between Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden seems almost insurmountable .  Nevertheless, a surprise could still occur. The Governor of New York and former Bill Clinton administration cabinet member Andrew Cuomo has been in the eyes of many filling the leadership vacuum left by the current President, Donald Trump . On a daily basis Cuomo provides COVID-19 briefings broadcast live by most mainstream media. His performance appeals not only to hard core democrats but also the important voter segment of moderates and independents. While he is not a candidate in this election – most likely planning for a run in 2024 where he could  likely  face another democratic   governor in the current spotlight, California’s  Gavin Newsome  -  according to some unofficial  polls he is already  ahead of Bernie Sanders, but still way behind the former Vice President . Biden on the other hand is mostly silent and rarely in public sight. The coronavirus  delayed democratic party convention in August may pull an unlikely surprise, but that say that is a probability  would be speculative at the moment. However, Trump, the shrewd operator  is instinctively aware of the dangers and his focus is always on the election and being devoid of an ideology always ready to shift his direction and align it into improving his chances of re election. He changed his focus from pushing for a return to normal life by Easter, to taking the medical and economic catastrophe scenarios more seriously .  At the end of the day, it appears almost certain  that not only the U.S. but the whole world may sustain a large sociological and cultural shift as a result of this extraordinary experience  The conventional beliefs and values may be subject to a serious challenge and a deviation from the consumption based system may be in the offing . How will this fundamental change in public sentiments affect the presidential elections ? Time will tell .