SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — A couple has been stranded in what has been labeled as the epicenter of the world's worst COVID-19 outbreak — India — while they wait for her visa to be signed.
Eric and Norvina Shearer are in New Delhi, India's capital, where they said a second wave of the pandemic blindsided the country and has crippled their efforts to get to America.
"Almost overnight, it just exploded," said Eric Shearer.
Sunday morning, the Indian government reported nearly 4,100 more people had died from COVID-19 within the last 24 hours, though the actual death toll is widely believed to be much higher.
"It's hard to get a positive result when you can't even get tested," he said.
"They are burning everyone, basically," said Norvina Shearer.
The couple spoke to KSL-TV from their place in New Delhi. They said smoke of burning bodies was visible throughout the city.
"They are burning so many bodies, and lots of people outside and everywhere is full of chaos because of COVID," she said. "They are not saying it's Hindu, it's Christian, it's Muslim. They are doing it with everyone. They are burning everybody basically."
Eric Shearer is a Utah County native. He moved to India in 2018 to marry Norvina.
The couple was separated in 2020 when borders shut down as he briefly returned to the states.
He finally returned to India in April 2021, just before a second wave of the pandemic hit.
The couple said a strict lockdown kept the first wave in check.
"As soon as this happened at the beginning of 2020, I was worried to death about India," he said. "I just thought it was a ticking time bomb, but India did a really good job at first. They did a complete lockdown."
But then, medical critics said the government leaned into a false sense of security, claiming they were in the pandemic's "endgame" and ignoring warnings about a second wave.
"They are completely overwhelmed, and basically every hospital we've seen says no bed, no oxygen," he said.
The couple said their family hasn't been immunized, adding that their aunt is on a waiting list to be admitted into an ICU unit.
"One place told us you can come here, but you're not going to get a bed until someone else dies," she said.
The couple said they were one five-minute interview away from getting her visa signed to come to America, but with the Indian health ministry warning about a third wave, they're not sure when that will happen.
"They are just so overwhelmed," said Eric. "It needs international help at this point."
The Shearers said Utah Republican Rep. John Curtis stepped in to help them find their paperwork after it was lost at the U.S. embassy, but they're hopeful someone can get them an interview for their visa.