July 14, 2020 (New York, NY) — As the COVID-19 pandemic worsens in many states across the nation, the Sikh Coalition continues to ensure that Sikh healthcare providers on the frontlines who maintain their articles of faith have the personal protective equipment (PPE) they need to keep themselves safe.

Recently, the Sikh Coalition worked with Simranpreet Kainth, a 3rd year medical student at the City University of New York’s (CUNY) School of Medicine, to secure him a powered air purifying respirator (PAPR) while he completes his rotations. With the invaluable support of CUNY School of Medicine staff, Simranpreet has been trained on how to use his PAPR, which he will wear when interacting with any COVID-positive patients.

“I am thankful to my school officials for ensuring that I have the tools I need to care for both my patients and myself as I continue my studies,” said Simranpreet. “The free guidance that the Sikh Coalition provided showed me that I shouldn’t have to choose between my beard and my passion for medicine, and I’m grateful that they are willing to help other Sikh healthcare professionals who are working to beat this virus.”

The Sikh Coalition has been working since the early days of the pandemic to ensure that no Sikh American feels they have to choose between their articles of faith and their desire to serve in the medical profession–particularly in this time of need. Since March, we have helped several other Sikh healthcare professionals across the nation secure PAPRs or other similar devices via religious accommodations. We also worked directly with the North American Sikh Medical and Dental Association (NASMDA) to produce this letter to Sikh healthcare professionals informing them of their rights when it comes to articles of faith and PPE guidelines, and we have provided behind the scenes guidance on best practices for Sikhs in requesting an accommodation and advocating for themselves on a global level.

“There is no difference between the service of Sikhs who choose to work in the medical field with their articles of faith and anyone else in their line of work,” said Cindy Nesbit, Sikh Coalition Senior Staff Attorney. “We are glad to help them secure alternative forms of PPE that allow them to continue saving lives. Now more than ever, the medical profession needs all hands on deck–and that means that healthcare employers uphold their obligation to ensure equality of opportunity for religious minorities.”

If you or someone you know is a healthcare professional, please read the above-mentioned letter we co-wrote with NASMDA, as well as this initial memo we released in March offering guidance on how to proactively request a religious accommodation for a PAPR or CAPR. Similarly, if you or someone you know have been told to shave facial hair in response to COVID-19, please contact the Sikh Coalition’s legal team for free legal aid immediately. You can also email ppe4sikhs@gmail.com to inquire about obtaining appropriate PPE through NASMDA.

As always, the Sikh Coalition urges you to practice your faith fearlessly.