Apache reflections from a pandemic
May 24, 2021
WHITERIVER, Ariz. – The COVID-19 pandemic hit Native Americans especially hard. But as the spotlight turned to larger communities, including the Navajo Nation, the White Mountain Apache Tribe quietly battled to save its 15,000 citizens.
Now, more than a year since the first COVID-19 cases were recorded in the U.S., the tribe in eastern Arizona has slowed the spread of the disease and helped curb death rates through a combination of intense contact-tracing, surveillance of high-risk individuals and, finally, vaccinations.
Last year, the reservation was considered a hotspot. By Sept. 1, five months after the tribe’s first recorded COVID-19 case, it had 2,400 cases and had lost 39 people. Over the next six months, there were 1,500 new cases and just 10 additional deaths.