Story at a glance
- Indigenous Americans have been disproportionately affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
- A new study shows that they are dying from COVID-19 at higher rates than most other populations.
- The data is still incomplete, which means the numbers could be even higher.
Even as vaccines are reaching the Indigenous population, a new study reveals that they are dying from COVID-19 at twice the rate of white Americans — higher than any other population in the United States.
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“Our collective grief is unimaginable. Losing 1 percent of our people is the equivalent of losing 3m Americans. Native Americans are used to dying at disproportionate rates and we’re used to scarcity but Covid is different, there’s a growing sense of hopelessness,” Desi Rodriguez-Lonebear, a professor at the University of California, told The Guardian. “I fear the long-term impacts on mental health, our children, community resilience and cohesiveness. We’re in the middle of a massive storm and we’re not prepared for the aftermath.”
Since the onset of the novel coronavirus in the United States, Native Americans have been disproportionately affected by both the virus and the economic consequences of the pandemic. A population historically ravaged by diseases brought from outsiders still lacks access to basic resources, including food and water in some areas, that are vital to fighting the disease. As a result, multiple tribal reservations have been hotspots for the spread of the disease and the findings from the APM Research Lab reveal that at least 3,548 Indigenous Americans had lost their lives as of Jan. 5.
New Mexico, which is home to the Navajo Nation, has one of the highest rates of vaccine administration in the country along with the Dakotas, Oklahoma and Alaska, which are all among the states with the highest Indigenous populations. In total, the Indian Health Service has distributed 290,900 doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines and more than 74,000 first doses have been administered, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Still, the data shows that for every 100,000 Americans, about 168 Indigenous people have died, followed by 137 Black Americans, 112 Pacific Islanders and 100 Latino Americans before 97 White Americans and 60 Asian Americans. But this data is still incomplete, with many states failing to report racial data on the coronavirus pandemic.
“The structural racism in the data collection systems makes us invisible by hiding deaths, which perpetuates inequalities and leads to further deaths in our communities, as this information is used to allocate resources,” Abigail Echo-Hawk, director of the national tribal epidemiology centre, told The Guardian. “The maze of missing data is part of the genocide that continues to be perpetrated against our people. Their final stories are being lost.”
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