Preventing Smallpox Ver. 2.0 for Native Americans: Opinion

While the rest of the world keeps to social distancing and quarantines, there is a group of people who are most vulnerable to yet another epidemic.

The Native American communities across the country are facing surmounting dangers because of COVID-19. Many Native Americans struggle with poverty, high crime rates, and weak health. With 73 confirmed dead just in the Navajo Nation alone, the virus spreads especially fast amongst those who might have contacts with the criminal justice system.

Even during the 1918 influenza pandemic, the Native American tribes saw up to 4 times more severity in deaths and severity.

Now, Navajo Nation in the area around Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah, is facing more than 2,000 reported cases. Indian Health Service has reported a total of 4,000 confirmed cases among all Native American nations so far, and it is not limited to reservations.

Native Americans lack healthcare. The Federal government spends $12,744 on Medicare and $9,404 on Veteran health, but only $2,834 per person for Native Americans. This leaves Native Americans vulnerable simply due to lack of healthcare.

Up to 40% of Navajo homes still lack clean running water and reliable electricity. Some homes are overcrowded exposing vulnerable people to greater risk. Even those tribes that succeeded from businesses are struggling as due to social distancing and shutdowns; many Indian nations receive income through retail or services such as casinos. That is not possible this year.

Solutions include: donating to Native American philanthropic efforts, making sure Native Americans receive their CARES act funds, to make sure healthcare is provided to Native Americans, to hire a Native American leader to have a voice in the Coronavirus task force. FEMA should consider the danger of Native American nations’ exposure leading to General American population as well. Infrastructure update would be very helpful, as many students would not have access to tools necessary to maintain their academic status.

While Native American nations were devastated by past pandemics, this does not need to continue; we can and should make the effort to help them out this time.

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