This segment is part of The State of Science , a series featuring science stories from public radio stations across the United States. A version of this story, by Kerry Klein, originally appeared on Valley Public Radio in Fresno, California .
The cab of Sunny Grewal ’ s 18-wheeler is neat and tidy. He ’ randomness got scat beds with bolshevik checked sheets and gray interior cabinets that hide a electric refrigerator, microwave, newspaper plates and spices for long days on the road. One fictile container holds bite-sized sweets from his native India. “ We call it gur, G-U-R, ” Grewal says. “ You can put it in tea, or you can have a small slice after food. ”
Grewal is a truck company owner-operator based in Fresno. He ’ sulfur on the road upwards of 150,000 miles a year, delivering produce and cleaning supplies like hand sanitizer to and from the East Coast, the Midwest, and the South. In other words, his work is essential to keeping this nation running. “ If nurses want to take care of you, they need the stuff that we bring, ” he says. “ You want to buy food to stay home, you ’ re going to stock the food in your house, we bring that food. ”
early on in the COVID-19 pandemic, the state of California designated truckers as necessity workers, but that status hasn ’ thymine materialized into any real advantages or privileges : No requirements that rest stops remain open, no luck pay, and no priority access to the vaccine. “ It is foreign that our day didn ’ t occur preferably, ” says Lovepreet Singh, a truck driver from Bakersfield who was hoping momentum in accompaniment of his industry would build after the White House honored hand truck drivers with a tease in April 2020.
Singh and Grewal are besides among an estimated hundreds of thousands of truckers in the U.S. who are Sikh, from the northerly indian state of Punjab. The north american english Punjabi Trucking Association estimates Punjabi Sikhs make up 20 percentage of the country ’ s truckers and control vitamin a much as 40 percentage of the industry in California, and however few public health departments in the state propose critical COVID-related information in the Punjabi linguistic process. “ It makes me feel left over, you know ? ” says Grewal .
That miss of information has had consequences for the hale Punjabi-speaking community, says Manpreet Kaur of the non-profit Jakara Movement, particularly in the early days of the pandemic. “ The information was fair always missing or it was excessively late or it was shared in a way that wasn ’ triiodothyronine easily understand, ” she says .
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Kaur recalls a day last year she was standing outside a Sikh temple known as a Gurdwara in Bakersfield, when a womanhood standing near her asked her to stop practicing social distance and move ahead in credit line. “ She was like ‘ no, that ’ s not how the virus is passed, it ’ s through surfaces, ’ and I ’ m like that is at least six-month-old information, ” Kaur says .
It ’ randomness unmanageable to quantify the stakes of the pandemic for California ’ s Punjabi Sikh population, but many cities with boastfully diaspora, like Livingston and Yuba City, have case rates that army for the liberation of rwanda exceed their county averages. The Jakara Movement estimates that at least four Punjabi Sikh workers were among the 14 who died in COVID outbreaks at Foster Farms domestic fowl process plants in Merced and Fresno Counties. “ Punjabis tend to be in food process, truck, all of the substantive work that has high gear vulnerability, ” Kaur says .
sol, early on, the Jakara Movement, an organization that fosters leadership and community-building among Punjabi Sikhs and other underserved communities, began translating crucial health data into Punjabi. They created culturally sensitive visuals, like a graphic of a Punjabi grandma getting her COVID vaccine, and a video about vaccinations featuring Punjabi Sikh doctors.
Jaspreet Singha, another hand truck owner-operator based in Fresno, says there ’ s an closeness in receiving information in his native natural language, even though he ’ s technical in English. “ It makes you feel more recognize, makes you feel, yes, your hard sour is paying off when your country needed you, ” he says .
That ’ s why Rajkaranbir Singh besides stepped in to fill Punjabi-language COVID information gaps. He ’ s a Fresno-based announcer and engineer with Punjabi Radio USA, a radio station offering 24 hours of music, religious programs and information, which doubled its newsworthiness program in the last year as more and more callers reached out to the station with COVID-related questions. “ We took that challenge and made it our duty that oklahoma, we have to make this our priority to give information adenine much as possible to our community, ” he says .
call-in shows are immediately about singularly focused on COVID, he says, and have evolved from providing data about basic health precautions to the specifics of PPP loans. “ Everybody ’ s starting to feel the top of this pandemic, particularly financially, ” he says. “ So, ‘ what kind of assistant are we getting ? What is government doing on it ? ’ ”
Shows are available via radio broadcasts in both am and fermium, an internet stream, Facebook and YouTube Live, a smartphone app, Whatsapp groups, and a call-in number to listen over the phone—all in Punjabi. “ That is basically our main deputation, that our community is well informed, and their issues are taken badly by policymakers or the lawmakers, ” Singh says .
Most health agencies with any information in Punjabi offer precisely selected documents, or an option to translate mechanically using Google Translate —a far shout from the multi-page websites, regular press releases and dynamic data dashboards available in English and sometimes in spanish. Singh says it ’ s frustrating to see his community left in the dark. “ I know people can argue they need to know English. Ok, they need to know English, ” he says. “ But how are they reaching out ? There is no outreach to them. even the health officials, the departments, they are not contacting us. ”
Until recently, that is. In the last calendar month, Singh says the state Department of Health has gotten in touch with the station to run a vaccine information political campaign. On March 22, the state made the on-line vaccine appointment scheduling tool MyTurn available in five new languages, including Punjabi, and on March 27, the Fresno County Department of Public Health hosted a vaccine clinic at a Selma Gurdwara in conjunction with the Jakara Movement .
By mid-April, all Californians over age 16 will be eligible for the COVID vaccine, careless of occupation. That includes truckers, of course, though Sunny Grewal believes they should have been prioritized in an earlier tier alongside first responders. “ They should start thinking about truckers badly, how much we help, ” he says. “ I know it ’ second our job but we still are humans excessively. ”
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His suggestion : Offer the shots at rest stops where so many truckers pass by every day. It ’ s an idea besides argued recently in a letter from the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention .
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