‘Chasing the virus’: How India’s largest slum beat back a pandemic

first_imgWhat they came up with was coined “Mission Dharavi”.Each day, medical workers set up a “fever camp” in a different part of the slum, so residents could be screened for symptoms and tested for coronavirus if needed. Schools, wedding halls and sports complexes were repurposed as quarantine facilities that offered free meals, vitamins and “laughter yoga” sessions.Strict containment measures were deployed in virus hotspots that were home to 125,000 people, including the use of drones to monitor their movements and alert police, while a huge army of volunteers swung into action, distributing rations so they didn’t go hungry.Bollywood stars and business tycoons paid for medical equipment as construction workers built a 200-bed field hospital at breakneck speed in a park inside Dharavi.By late June, more than half the slum’s population had been screened for symptoms and around 12,000 tested for coronavirus.So far Dharavi has reported just 82 deaths — a fraction of Mumbai’s more than 4,500 fatalities. With a dozen people typically sleeping in a single room, and hundreds using the same public toilet, authorities realized early that standard practices would be of little use.”Social distancing was never a possibility, home isolation was never an option, and contact tracing was a huge problem with so many people using the same toilet,” Dighavkar told AFP.An initial plan to conduct door-to-door screenings was abandoned after Mumbai’s searing heat and humidity left medical workers feeling suffocated under layers of protective equipment as they combed the area’s cramped alleys for cases.But, with infections rising fast and fewer than 50,000 people checked for symptoms, officials needed to move quickly and get creative. ‘Brink of victory’ “We are on the brink of victory, I feel very proud,” said Abhay Taware, a doctor who saw around 100 patients daily in his tiny clinic at the height of the crisis.The 44-year-old father-of-two also had to fight his own battle against coronavirus when he contracted the disease in April, but told AFP he had “no doubts” about returning to work.”I thought I could show my patients that a positive diagnosis does not mean the end,” he said.Although doctors like Taware worked to reassure worried residents, the stigma persists.After an isolating 25-day spell in hospital and a fortnight in quarantine, Sushil — not his real name — said he now feared discrimination if people found out about his diagnosis.The 24-year-old also struck a note of caution, warning of a potential resurgence in infections.”People need to take as many precautions as possible. The numbers might have come down but they can swiftly rise again”, he told AFP.  ‘No escape next time’With Mumbai and Delhi struggling to accommodate coronavirus patients as India’s cases surge past half a million officials are also wary of celebrating too soon.”It’s a war. Everything is dynamic,” said Dighavkar.”Right now, we feel like we are on top of the situation,” he said. “The challenge will be when factories reopen,” he added, referring to the billion-dollar leather and recycling industries run out of Dharavi’s cramped tenements.And some in the slum fear their community might not be as lucky next time.On a blazing morning, as car salesman Vinod Kamble lined up to have his temperature taken, he recalled his terror when the virus landed in Mumbai.”I felt like Dharavi would be destroyed, and nothing would be left,” he told AFP, describing the near impossibility of avoiding infection in the slum.”We need better infrastructure,” the 32-year-old said.”Otherwise the next time a disease like this emerges, I don’t think Dharavi will be able to escape.”center_img Topics : When coronavirus claimed its first victim in India’s largest slum in April, many feared the disease would turn its narrow, congested streets into a graveyard, with social distancing or contact tracing all but impossible.But three months on, Mumbai’s Dharavi offers a rare glimmer of hope with new infections shrinking, thanks to an aggressive strategy that focused on “chasing the virus, instead of waiting for disaster”, according to city official Kiran Dighavkar.The sprawling slum has long been a byword for the financial capital’s bitter income disparities — with Dharavi’s estimated one million people scraping a living as factory workers or maids and chauffeurs to Mumbai’s well-heeled residents.last_img read more

Evacuations expanded as California wine country fire spreads quickly

first_imgIn one notable property loss, the mansion-like Chateau Boswell winery in St. Helena, a familiar landmark along the Silverado Trail road running the length of the Napa Valley, went up in flames on Sunday night.An estimated 60,000 residents have been placed under evacuation orders or advisories in Sonoma and Napa counties combined.No injuries have been reported, and the fire’s cause was under investigation. Santa Rosa Fire Chief Anthony Gossner said the blaze was burning mostly through overgrown scrub in areas that had seen little or no wildfire activity in a century.Not everyone heeded evacuation orders. Topics : As homes emptied out around him, Santa Rosa resident Jas Sihota perched himself on his front porch with a garden hose, darting out every 15 minutes or so to douse nearby spot fires seeded by wind-blown embers under a hazy red sun.Sihota, a radiology technician at a nearby hospital, said he had not slept in some 24 hours.”I wouldn’t have a house if I didn’t stay,” said Sihota. At least 10 homes elsewhere on the street beyond the reach of his hose were destroyed.In 2017, roughly 5% of Santa Rosa’s homes were lost when downed power lines sparked a devastating firestorm in October that swept the region, killing 19 people.The Glass Fire marked the latest flashpoint in a historically destructive wildfire season throughout the Western United States.In California alone, wildfires have scorched 3.7 million acres (1.5 million hectares) since January – far exceeding any single year in state history. They have been stoked by intense, prolonged bouts of heat, high winds and other weather extremes that scientists attribute to climate change. Since mid-August, fires in the state have killed 26 people and destroyed over 7,000 structures.Harvest-season flamesThe Glass struck about midway through the region’s traditional grape-harvesting season, already disrupted by a spate of large fires earlier this summer.Several Napa Valley growers said recently they would forgo a 2020 vintage altogether due to smoke contamination of ripening grapes waiting to be picked.The 475 vintners in Napa Valley alone account for just 4% of the state’s grape harvest but half the retail value of all California wines sold. Sonoma County, too, has become a premiere viticulture region with some 450 wineries and a million acres of vineyards.The full impact on the region’s wine business remains to be seen and will differ for each grower, depending on how far along they are in production, said Teresa Wall, spokeswoman for the Napa Valley Vintners trade group.”It’s completely variable,” she said. “There are some who were close to wrapping up (harvests), and some who were still planning to leave their grapes hanging out there for a while.”Still, the fires caused major upheavals for some of the area’s most vulnerable residents in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.The 151-bed Adventist Health St. Helena hospital was forced to evacuate patients on Sunday, the second time in a month following a lightning-sparked wildfire in August.On Monday, residents at Oakmont Gardens, a Santa Rosa retirement community, leaned on walkers and waited to board a bus taking them to safety, their face masks doubling as protection against smoke and COVID-19.About 37,000 homes and business have sustained power disruptions across the region, some from precautionary shutoffs of transmission lines to reduce wildfire risks in the midst of extremely windy, hot, dry weather, Pacific Gas and Electric Co reported.CalFire said more than 1,000 firefighters were battling the Glass Fire, with at least 18,000 on the front lines of more than two dozen major blazes across the state.Red-flag warnings for extreme wildfire risks remained posted for much of Northern California, forecasting low humidity and gale-force wind gusts.center_img A wind-driven wildfire raged for a second day through Northern California wine country on Monday, burning homes, forcing thousands of residents to flee and threatening some of the world-renowned vineyards of Napa and Sonoma counties.As of Monday, a blaze dubbed the Glass Fire had spread across 11,000 acres (4,450 hectares) of rolling grassy hillsides and oak woodlands, fanned by high winds and fueled largely by thick, dry scrub left unburned by previous wildfires.The fire erupted before dawn on Sunday near Calistoga, in the heart of the Napa Valley wine-growing region about 75 miles (120 km) north of San Francisco, and had spread by afternoon across 2,000 acres (810 hectares). By Monday, the blaze and two other fires had merged into a larger conflagration straddling western Napa County and an adjacent swath of Sonoma County, with containment listed at zero.last_img read more

Canyons to offer culinary arts degree

first_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORESanta Anita opens winter meet Saturday with loaded card Chef Steve Eisner, a 30-year veteran of the food industry, will be teaching the course. “The class is a terrific starting point for people who aspire to be professional chefs, restaurant owners or hospitality managers in hotels, country clubs or institutional settings,” Eisner said. “The real fun is in the kitchen – what pot to use, how to hold a knife, how to bake, stew, braise, and the best part is that students get to eat what they cook. I get so excited when I see students progress through the class and end up cooking a beautiful buffet as part of the class final.” The class will meet from noon to 1:50 p.m. or 2 to 4:50 p.m. Tuesdays. For information, visit the college’s Web site at www.canyons.edu or call (661) 362-3280. VALENCIA – College of the Canyons will offer its first-ever culinary arts degree program when the spring semester starts on Monday, to train would-be chefs for a growing field. The first class offered will be Foods and Nutrition in the Restaurant Industry, which will cover culinary techniques for commercial kitchen operations. “The truth is, if you learn how to cook, you will always have a job,” said Kevin Anthony, chairman of the college’s hotel and restaurant management program. “The class will provide students with a solid beginning in the fine art of culinary skills.” The class will also provide food safety instruction and prepare those seeking Los Angeles County food handler’s certificates. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img read more