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Coronavirus US: Native Americans 3.5 times more at risk

Native Americans make up a larger percentage of novel coronavirus cases than compared to their share of the US population, a new report finds.

American Indians and Alaska Natives account for 0.7 percent of the population but at 1.3 percent of all COVID-19 cases, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed on Wednesday. 

What’s more, indigenous people are 3.5 times more likely to contact the virus than Caucasian Americans. 

Infections tended to be more common among those aged 18 and younger and not in those above age 65 as seen in the white population.

Recent studies have found that Native Americans and Alaska Natives are among the groups at highest risk for contracting severe cases of COVID-19. 

Racial and social inequities between these communities and white populations have adversely affected tribal nations.

Additionally, this population tends to rely on shared transpiration, live among large groups of people in close quarters, and had limited access to running water.

For the report, the CDC looked at the prevalence of coronavirus among Native Americans in 23 states between January 22 and July 3.

These states include Alabama, Alaska, Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Tennessee, Utah, Wisconsin and Wyoming. 

Results showed that while white Americans made up a larger total number of cases, a higher percentage of the indigenous population was infected.

In fact, Natives were 3.5 times more likely to fall ill with COVID-19 than Caucasians. 

A higher proportion of Native Americans 18-year-old or younger tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 than those who were white and in the same age range at 12.9 percent and 4.3 percent, respectively.

However, a smaller percentage of cases were among Natives aged 65 year or older at 12.6 percent compared to 28.6 percent among this age group for whites. 

Because there was incomplete data regarding symptoms, underlying health conditions, hospitalization and/or ICU status, comparisons between Natives and whites could not be made.  

Recently, the CDC announced it was proving Indian country with more than $200 million to fight COVID-19.

The funds will help tribal leaders conduct testing, contact tracing, infection control and mitigation.  

‘American Indian and Alaska Native people have suffered a disproportionate burden of COVID-19 illness during the pandemic,’ said CDC director Dr Robert Redfield in a statement.

‘This funding approach will broaden access to COVID-19 resources across tribal communities.’

The CDC said it will continue to provide tribal nations with resources on managing physical health, affordable testing and access to mental health care. 

‘Funding is only one step in addressing the impact of COVID-19 on tribal communities,’ said Dr José Montero, director of the CDC’s Center for State, Tribal, Local, and Territorial Support. 

‘CDC is continuing to work on coordinated outreach to tribal nations through our Office of Tribal Affairs and Strategic Alliances and new Tribal Support Section to provide remote- and field-based support to our hardest hit tribal communities.’  

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