Feb. 5, 2021 -- A new analysis of mortality statistics shows the coronavirus pandemic is far deadlier for Native Americans than other groups in the United States.

One in every 475 Native Americans has died from COVID-19, according to the data APM Research Lab’s Color of Coronavirus project shared with The Guardian newspaper.

In comparison, one in every 825 white Americans, one in every 645 Black Americans, one in every 665 Pacific Islander Americans, one in every 835 Latino Americans, and one in every 1,320 Asian Americans has died.

Native Americans have had 211 deaths per 100,000 people, the study shows.

Per 100,000 people, white Americans have had 121 deaths; Latino Americans, 120 deaths; Pacific Islander Americans, 150 deaths; Black Americans, 155 deaths; and Asian Americans, 76 deaths.

The newspaper notes that actual death counts are probably higher because some states and cities don’t collect death data on Native Americans. States with hard-hit Native populations include Mississippi, New Mexico, Arizona, Wyoming, Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota.

“Everyone has been impacted. Some families have been decimated. How can we go back to normal when we’ve lost so many after so many layers of trauma? It’s unbearable,” Amber Kanazbah Crotty, a tribal council delegate in the Navajo Nation, told The Guardian.

Worse, the death rate has sped up in recent months.

The Guardian said 985 coronavirus-related deaths among Native Americans occurred in January -- up 35% from December and the biggest rise among other groups. Deaths only rose 10% for white Americans in the same period.

“Not only do Native people have the highest rate of Covid deaths, the rate is accelerating and the disparities with other groups are widening. This latest data is terrible in every way for indigenous Americans,” Andi Egbert, senior analyst at APM Research Lab, told The Guardian.

The impact on smaller tribes is striking. About 50 members of the 5,000-member Northern Cheyenne tribe in Montana have died.

“Our collective grief is unimaginable,” said Desi Rodriguez-Lonebear, an assistant professor of sociology and American Indian studies at the University of California.

“Losing 1% of our people is the equivalent of losing 3 million 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.”

Health authorities have long known the virus was ravaging indigenous people in the U.S.

Back in early June 2020, the Navajo Nation in the Southwest reported around 6,000 coronavirus cases and an infection rate of 3.4% -- the highest in the country. New York state, by comparison, had a 1.9% infection rate.

Why is the coronavirus hard to manage on Native American reservations?

Navajo Nation President Joseph Nez said that the social structure of Navajo families, in which it’s common for several generations to live in the same residence, makes it difficult to practice social distancing. Extended families often gather in large groups, he said.

The high poverty rate also makes sanitation difficult. One expert estimated that one-third of the Navajo population lacks running water and electricity.

WebMD Health News Brief

Sources

APM Research Lab. “DEATHS BY RACE & ETHNICITY, OVER TIME.”

The Guardian. “Exclusive: indigenous Americans dying from Covid at twice the rate of white Americans.”

Navajo Nation Department of Public Health.

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