The Hmong community was hit hard by COVID-19. Even as Minnesota emerges from the pandemic, the worry and grief of the last year will linger for many in the tight-knit community.
Beloved elders who survived the refugee experience and the start of a new life in Minnesota were lost to the virus. Community leaders battled misinformation. And, the strong tradition of Hmong communal life — including extended family activities and big funerals — came into direct conflict with the need to socially distance to be safe from the virus.
The Minnesota Department of Health tracks COVID-19 cases by broad racial groups, not specific ethnic categories, so it is hard to measure the extent of the impact of COVID-19 on Hmong people. One recent report found that Hmong people accounted for half of the deaths in Minnesota among Asians who died of COVID-19 in 2020.
Host Angela Davis explored some of the cultural and economic reasons the virus took such a toll in the Hmong community and recent efforts to encourage vaccinations.
Chao Yang is a senior health educator for St. Paul Ramsey Public Health, founder of the Hmong Public Health Association and a student in the Executive Public Health Administration and Policy program at the University of Minnesota. Her research resulted in the report A Race to Close the Disproportionate COVID-19 Death Rate in Minnesota’s Asian Community.
Dr. David Thao is chair of the Hmong Medical Association and a plastic surgeon in Woodbury, Minn. who has been extensively involved in COVID-19 education and outreach in local and national Hmong communities.
Use the audio player above to listen to the full conversation.
Your support matters.
You make MPR News possible. Individual donations are behind the clarity in coverage from our reporters across the state, stories that connect us, and conversations that provide perspectives. Help ensure MPR remains a resource that brings Minnesotans together.