Red Lake Nation News - Babaamaajimowinan (Telling of news in different places)

COVID-19's Tragic Effect on American Indians: A State-by-State Analysis


October 8, 2020

A nurse checks a Navajo woman's vitals at a COVID-19 testing center on the Navajo Nation in Arizona on May 21.(MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)

In the United States, people of color have been disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, and Native Americans are no exception. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American Indian and Alaska Native people are 5.3 times more likely than white people to be hospitalized due to COVID-19, the largest disparity for any racial or ethnic group.

There are myriad reasons why Native Americans are particularly susceptible to the virus, including social inequities and disproportionately high rates of preexisting conditions – such as diabetes, heart disease, asthma and obesity – that can put them at extra risk of severe illness. Many also live in multigenerational homes with large families, which can make social distancing a challenge.

Access to quality health care is also an issue. The Indian Health Service, the federal agency that provides health services for many American Indians and Alaska Natives, is chronically underfunded and under-resourced. In 2018, most of its hospitals reportedly were operating with fewer than 50 total beds, while the agency had about 20% fewer doctors than what it believed was ideal.


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