Navajo Nation Tragedy: Not All Communities Suffer COVID-19 Equally

The Navajo Nation, a territory about the size of West Virginia that encompasses 173,667 people, has suffered more COVID-19 cases than eight U.S. states combined. At this time, this population has a coronavirus infection rate of more than 3.4 percent with more than 6,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and a total of 142 deaths, according to the Navajo Nation Department of Health. By comparison, New York state has an infection rate of 1.9 percent.

In Navajo County, a part of Navajo nation located in Arizona, one out of 44 people have contracted the virus!

Dr. Sriram Shamasunder, an associate professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, told Alan Mozes of U.S. News and World Report, “I would say that one-third of the population doesn’t have electricity or running water … that means that while ‘shelter-in-place’ may for us be an inconvenience, for many Native Americans it’s an impossibility. If you don’t have a refrigerator to store food, or water to drink, then you’re not going to be able to just stay at home.” Then there’s hunger. Much of this nation is a “food desert” where grocery stores, convenience stores, and fresh produce are either hard to find or unaffordable for many Navajo Nation residents. At this time 44 percent of the population lives below the poverty line.

In addition to this, the Navajo territory only has twelve health care sites and these facilities were already among the most underfunded and understaffed in America. Lack of healthy food, poverty, and stress cause the Navajo people to suffer higher rates of diabetes, heart disease and obesity – health conditions which lead to an increased risk of death from COVID-19. These deaths show one more case in which poor people and minorities suffer the worst of this pandemic.

featured image credit: MedPage Today