Coronavirus Is Hitting Long Beach’s Cambodian Community. But How Hard?

In Long Beach, Dr. Visal Nga pulls out his Khmer to speak to Cambodian patients about the virus he suspects is striking them harder than other Asians.

Most are refugees like him who left behind a country riven by genocide. But post-traumatic stress disorder followed many of them to Long Beach — home to the most Cambodians outside of Cambodia. So did the familiar gnaw of poverty, and new problems — high rates of diabetes and hypertension — all factors linked to the worst outcomes for COVID-19 patients.

This is not to mention, Nga said, that many Cambodian Americans face heightened exposure to the virus from holding service jobs and living in large, multi-generational households.

Dr. Visal Nga treats many Cambodian patients at St. Mary’s Medical Center.

“Some of my patients have six people living in one single home, because it’s expensive to live in Long Beach,” said Nga, who works at St. Mary’s Medical Center and is part of the Cambodian Health Professionals Association of America. “If one person gets infected, the entire family gets infected.”

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