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Native American Communities During COVID-19

Native American communities During COVID-19
As of July 20, 2021, the World Health Organization (WHO) reports more than 190 million confirmed COVID-19 cases with almost 4 million deaths and the administering of almost 3.5 million vaccine doses. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported in December of 2020 that Native American communities are 3.5 times more likely to fall sick with the novel coronavirus and 1.8 times more likely to die from COVID-19 than non-Hispanic white people.

Harvard field research teacher Eric Henson calls what the tribes are having as “the worst of both worlds at the same time.” Businesses entirely stopped their services at the start of this health crisis. These communities had their tax base reduced entirely to zero. All tribal businesses closed. Like other minority groups, Native American communities often work jobs that do not provide proper medical insurance. Many of these jobs are ‘essential work,’ meaning these individuals nevertheless face an increased risk of contracting COVID-19. However, efforts are providing aid to Native American communities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

COVID-19 Vaccine for Minorities

Native American communities during COVID-19 are accepting safety measures to prevent the novel coronavirus. Early discussions considered giving priority to minorities with the first vaccine dose, at odds with the Trump Administration. While little data exists regarding vaccination rates amongst ethnicities during the vaccine rollout under President Biden, several prominent Native Americans were prioritizing vaccines in their communities. As a result of the American Indian communities’ core values of putting the community first before the individual, their stance to accept the first wave of vaccines is for the health of their whole tribe as well. One individual’s health protected through the vaccine keeps other non-infected community members in a safer environment.

A recent survey that the Urban Indian Health Institute conducted showed that 75% of Native Americans are willing to receive vaccinations. Surveys show 75% of American Indians are concerned with side effects from novel coronavirus protection measures. However, two out of three participants are confident they are safe.

Funding For Native Americans During a Global Pandemic

The CDC has given $219.5 million to aid tribal communities during this health crisis. Its approach has ensured that these communities have access to necessary materials to prevent, provide for and respond to outbreaks. The U.S. Congress directs $165 million of the funding from the CDC through two acts. The acts are H.R 6074, a bill providing $8.3 billion in emergency funding for COVID-19, and the CARES Act, a bill protecting the healthcare system, employed workers and the economy against the health pandemic.

The Administration for Native Americans has a branch referred to as the Administration of Children and Families (ACF). The branch exists within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. ACF has supported Native American communities during COVID-19. Its website provides resources to grant programs providing Native tribes, families and individuals access to funding for the pandemic. Resources include administrative relief, human services activities and natural disaster alleviation for Native Americans during COVID-19.

A Return to Normalcy

The effects of COVID-19 are detrimental to many communities, especially those already in the minority before the pandemic. As Native Americans are some of the first to receive vaccines, the families are back on their way to normalcy.

Libby Keefe
Photo: Flickr