HomeHmong AmericanTwin Cities Asians suffer highest rate of COVID-19 cases. Officials respond

Twin Cities Asians suffer highest rate of COVID-19 cases. Officials respond

Photo from Wikimedia Creative Commons by Cliff

Asians have the highest rate of COVID-19 cases in the Minnesota Twin Cities region, TwinCities.com reports. The alarming data has spurred one county to try out a new approach for widespread testing. 

Ramsey County officials have spent the past four weekends in August setting up large “low-barrier” testing sites that do not require insurance or ID. The sites correspond with ZIP codes of communities with high COVID-19 numbers, usually ethnic enclaves. 

“Cultural brokers” are also a part of the effort, liaisons who are a part of cultural organizations that may be more familiar with residents, TwinCities.com reports.

“They see the qualitative data — the families who may have someone who is sick, who may not have a provider to go to,” Kathy Hedin, Ramsey County’s Public Health director, said. 

While 15% of the area’s residents are Asian, the population makes up 21% of the region’s cases. According to TwinCities.com, causes can range from crowded multigenerational households to distrust of medical providers. Many in the community are also essential workers. 

Lwepaw Kacher is one of the on-the-ground cultural brokers and member of the Karen Organization of Minnesota. The Karen are an ethnic group from Myanmar. 

“At first, we said, ‘it couldn’t be worse than malaria,’ because there were so many different types of illnesses in the refugee camps,” Kacher said. “But those who got it said it was really bad. I had a community member who almost wanted to commit suicide because he couldn’t breathe. I said, ‘You have to keep calling me.’ It’s real.”

Ramsay County is also working with a variety of other organizations, including the Hmong American Partnership and Hmong Healthcare Professionals Coalition, TwinCities.com reports. 

The Minneapolis-based Southeast Asian Diaspora Project (SEAD) has also been essential to providing Southeast Asian communities support, Fox 9 reports

The organization has spent the past few months handing out masks and hand sanitizer. SEAD has also been responsible for creating culturally competent health announcements in a variety of Southeast Asian languages. 

“With messaging, you can’t just do a translation. You have to do a cultural translation, so there’s the literal and the cultural translation that has to happen,” Chanida Phaengdara Potter, the executive director of The SEAD Project said, according to Fox 9. 

“One of the key things that makes us SEAD is that we are able to center our Southeast Asian narratives and voices and experiences,” Phaengdara Potter added.

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