COVID-19 and the Karen community in Cass County

Last Updated on November 29, 2020 by Sunday Htoo

The author, Sunday Htoo, fled Burma as a refugee and proudly became a naturalized American citizen in 2020. She is a writer whose dream is to share the stories of her Karen ethnic community. She resides in Logansport with her husband and two children. She works at Area Five Agency on Aging & Community Services and at LCSC/Adult Learning Center.

According to an article written by Sunday for ChristianityToday.com, the Karen are one of more than 10 ethnic minority groups in Burma, and are one of the largest groups among the two million people displaced from Burma due to ethnic conflict.

Karen is pronounced “Kah-Ren”, with the the emphasis on the second syllable.


At first I thought telling someone you had tested positive for COVID was as hard as telling someone whom you were going to vote for, but not in my community. I am glad I got tested because I then knew that I had to stay away from everyone and experienced more how much my friends, my family, and co-workers cared about me and my family. 

When I received the call, “Sunday, you are positive,” I wondered if my coworkers knew, if my friends knew, if strangers knew, what would happen to my family and me. Anyway, I called my daughter’s school, I texted my bosses, I texted my friends, and I let those who had contact with me or my family members know about it.  They all prayed for my family, sent warm messages and hoped for our fast recovery. Thank you! 

I texted my coworkers, “Girls, my daughter and I, we tested positive.” 

They replied, “Oh no, please take care of yourselves.” 

I said, “I hope you guys don’t hate me.” 

Another one replied, “Sunday no one hates you it can happen to any of us! Just concentrate on getting the both of you well, hugs and prayers, my friends.” 

All the uplifting messages that my friends and my co-workers sent made me feel better. Some friends dropped off food including dinner, drinks, DVDs, snack, …We felt so blessed! 

The day when I start getting sick, I was 45 minutes late for my virtual training. I cried so hard because I did not want to miss any minutes from my virtual core training on October 23, 2020. When I continued the training, I had a headache, which usually happens to me after I cry. Then I felt. I grabbed my smock that I hang on my wall and asked one of my coworkers for a Tylenol or any pain medicine. I went home after the training. I told my husband I did not feel so good; he was not feeling well, either. We thought it was a side effect of the flu shot we received on Oct. 20. In fall, we usually get sick or have a runny nose.  

At night, I felt a little cold and I took flu medicine. In the morning, I felt better. Because we had already paid for it, we did not cancel our trip to a nearby tree farm and the weather was so cold. My son did not want to play at first and my daughter joined her friends. I did not do anything except sit in a swing with my son. I was fine the whole day, but about 2 p.m., I started to feel cold, burn, achy again. We left the farm around 3 p.m. and visited my sister in Indianapolis. I took another dose of flu medicine and slept in her bedroom while the other people worshipped and ate to celebrate a family member’s birthday thanksgiving. 

We did not go to church on Sunday. I called my daughter’s school Monday morning and asked if my daughter could go to school because my husband and I felt sick and I told the nurse we got flu shots a few days ago. The nurse said as long as my daughter did not have any symptoms, she could come to school.

On Monday, I did not go to work. I felt more tired, with a headache, dizziness and a sore throat, and food tasted funny. I decided to get tested for COVID before I went back to work, so I called 574-355-8754 to make an appointment and they asked me to go to www.scheduling.coronavirus.in.gov. I made an appointment for 5 p.m., but I went in at 4 p.m. Because nobody was there, I did not need to wait. They asked me a few questions and administered the test. It did not take more than 5 minutes. 

On Tuesday morning, my daughter said she had a little sore throat and a headache. My daughter studied at home. Three days after I was tested, my result came back positive. The only symptoms I had were: sore throat, headache, burning through my whole body, coughing, tiredness, heavy head just like I have a big rock in my head, and chest pain. At night or when I was more active, it was harder to breathe. My husband’s test results also came back positive. Both my husband and my daughter experienced minor symptoms, but they were more tired and stressed because they could not leave the house to do their school work and we did not have internet. 

This is the second wave of COVID hitting Cass County. Back in April, most of the Karen families in Logansport tested positive and only three of them got sick. Most of them had no symptoms and they felt like they had a normal cold. Three of my friends shared with me how they dealt with life when they were sick. 

The first one wanted to remain anonymous. The symptoms he had included: tiredness, having a heavy head, sleeplessness, a burning feeling in his whole body, no sweat, loss of taste and smell, fatigue, chills, and body aches. It took him about two months to get back to normal and not feel tired. 

He said, “All the ingredients in the kitchen become medicines.”

He drank lemon juice mixed with ginger water, and he breathed the steam from boiling lime leaves, turmeric, and ginger twice a week which made him feel so much better after his sweat came out.

For coughing, he said, “I mixed lime juice, black pepper, honey, and a kind of Burmese herbal medicine.” All he wants to suggest to readers, if you know you have COVID, “Please eat as much as you can, stay clean, wash your hands, get enough sleep, and do a little exercise. The more your sweat comes out, the faster you will feel better.”  

Marida Dway, 40, the mother of three children, thought it was just allergies and she wouldn’t have known if she had not been tested.  She said, “It started with sneezing, a runny nose, and burning up while sleeping at night.” 

She did not have any fever. About a week later, she lost her sense of taste and smell, had a heavy head, and had a little coughing, body aches, and fatigue. 

She said, “I can’t describe the burning. It was like sunburn or my skin being burned by hot chili pepper on my legs and hands.” 

It took her more than four weeks to feel better. She said, “I boiled ginger roots in my big pot. When it was boiling, I put it into a bucket in the bathroom and I covered myself with a blanket while sitting over the hot ginger root water. I waited until my sweat came out and I washed my body and my hair with that water. I felt so much better after that and I did that until I didn’t feel a heavy head anymore.” 

She said, “Eat and drink a lot of water or juice. I gained more weight because I ate a lot and I worried that I would lose strength.”  She did not let any of her family members go outside and at that time she saw a news story about people attacking Asians, including a Karen father and son, so she was a little scared. But she said, “I didn’t get scared too much because people in our city are different from the others, they wouldn’t do something like that.” 

She said during her sickness, somebody called to check on her about two times and asked about her symptoms. 

Another friend is Eh Ka Nyau, 37, the father of two children. He took care of his children while his wife was working a full-time job. 

He said, “After I had [a] fever [for] two days, I could not breathe and I passed out. My wife called the emergency room and they tested me. It was negative. In the morning, I went to [the] ER again and it was positive. I do not like to take any herbal medicine because I do not like the taste. The only medicine I took was Tylenol. I could not taste or smell anything. I coughed days and nights, had difficulty breathing, and my whole chest was painful and fatigued.” 

He also said that “When it (Corona) came up (started attacking), my neck was so heavy, and I felt so dizzy. I couldn’t sleep like I usually did so I had to sit against the wall with a pillow. If I laid down strangely, I could not breathe. Everything is back to normal now, but at night and sometimes, inside my ears there is a sound “Te…” and it is like the wind whirling inside my ears up to now.” 

Eh Nyau said that he never received any call to learn his test results; he had to ask his friend to make a call and they call back for his test result. He suggested, “Rest, try to eat, and be active.” 

My husband and my daughter received two letters from the CDC that they tested positive and asking them to make a call. My husband called the phone number,  833-670-0067. For me, I did not receive a letter or a call from them, but I reached out to them with this number for the survey. 

COVID has affected the Karen community.  I know first-hand in my own family and from my friends.  It is important to know that you are not alone.  Call a friend.  Call for help.  Please take care of your health and if you are sick, please see a doctor and get tested. 

Logansport Memorial Hospital and the Cass County Health Department (CCHD) want to ensure that the COVID-19 testing process is clear for local residents.

Know where to go for COVID-19 testing if you are showing symptoms or if you believe you have been exposed. The most current process for where to go to receive testing is as follows:

COVID Clinic at 1616 Smith Street in Logansport

BY APPOINTMENT ONLY. Register online at scheduling.coronavirus.in.gov.

Testing will be available to all members of the public regardless of symptoms. Children as young as 2 years of age can be tested with parental consent.

Individuals should bring proof of Indiana residency such as a state-issued ID, work ID or utility bill.