Dr. Julia Iafrate on the job. SUPPLIED

Fonthill native on the front lines in New York City

Dr. Julia Iafrate, who hails from Fonthill, may have missed the legendary St. Patrick’s Day parties in New York City this past March due to the pandemic, but she still loves the colour green.

That’s the colloquial colour for the identification card issued by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to permanent residents, who are legally allowed to live and work in the country. (Green cards have not actually been green since 1964.)

It is the culmination of a struggle that was very much in question six months ago.

Iafrate had been told in April that she would be expelled from the country, a victim of President Donald Trump’s suspension of visas for foreign nationals amid the pandemic.

She went public with her story, making her plight known on social media. CBS News interviewed her in May, relating how Iafrate had been denied her green card even as she was serving on the front lines against the coronavirus, and had been studying and working in the US since 2008. Her specialization is not infectious diseases, but when the call went out for medical volunteers to assist with the overburdened NYC hospital system, Iafrate stepped up to work in intensive care units.

On May 31, Iafrate told the Voice that her waiver petition has been approved after having been reviewed. This did not yet mean that her green card was approved, but it cleared the first hurdle.

On August 27, her lawyer received notification that her application had been officially approved. She had her non-green green card in her hands in late September.

Having permanent resident status means that Iafrate can work in the US for the next 10 years, and will now able to travel back and forth across the border without issue (once the border re-opens).

“Once COVID calms down, I’ll be able to actually come home for a visit, which will be nice, because I haven’t been able to do that for the past couple of years,” she said.

Her plan for now is to stay in the US, and in New York City.

So why are we now seeing a rise in COVID infections, the predicted second wave? Iafrate was candid in her answer.

“Absolutely I think that we got a little too comfortable, and we’re seeing the result of that now. The medical recommendations are open to revision, because science is changing. This is research in real time that you’re seeing.”

Iafrate noted that a colleague, a physician aged 28, who was completing his residency and had appeared to be in perfect health, succumbed to COVID recently.

She has little time for pandemic conspiracy theorists.

“Some people just don’t think, and I don’t understand that. They worry about erosion of their freedoms, saying ‘You can’t tell me what to do with my life,’ blah, blah, blah. But the law says you have to wear a seatbelt…what’s the difference, right?”

These days Iafrate doesn’t go to the indoor gym, but will occasionally dine out at restaurants that are abiding by safety rules related to masking and physical distancing.

“I have use of my [apartment building] rooftop, and I have a very close group of half a dozen friends I trust. We get together for dinner, or go to the park, or hikes,” she said.

Regular coronavirus testing is required for health workers in New York, and Iafrate says she gets tested every two or three weeks.

When at work, and while commuting to work, she wears her mask every day, all day.

And she washes her hands. A lot.