COVID-19 hitting Native American population hard in South Dakota, according to DOH data; Tribal leaders consider possible response plans Original

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — South Dakota is following some national trends when it comes to COVID-19 and Native Americans.

The age-adjusted hospitalization rate for non-Hispanic American Indian or Alaska Native persons was approximately 4.5 times that of non-Hispanic White persons, according to the Centers for Disease Control’s Sept. 25 report.

As of Sept. 28, Native Americans accounted for 25.6% of all COVID-19 patients who have been hospitalized, according to the South Dakota Department of Health. There were 365 Native Americans who were, or had been, hospitalized with COVID-19.

The state had 1,488 total hospitalizations as of Sept. 28.

Native Americans accounted for 19% of deaths (42) as of Sept. 28 but make up 9% of South Dakota’s estimated 2019 population. A total of 218 people had died from COVID-19 as of Sept. 28.

A Sept. 15 report from APM Research Lab shows that 1 in 1,220 Indigenous Americans has died (or 81.9 deaths per 100,000) from COVID-19 in the U.S.

A recent increase in COVID-19 in the Native American population on the Oglala Sioux Tribe Nation in South Dakota has prompted tribal officials to consider a potential seven day lockdown, a Sept. 26 Twitter from the tribe’s COVID-19 Response Task Force said.

The Sept. 26 Twitter message from the Oglala Sioux Tribe COVID-19 Response Task Force.

The task force said it would recommend a lockdown to the tribe’s law and order committee on Sept, 28 for that committee to review.

The increase in cases related to members of the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate Tribe in northeastern South Dakota, has prompted tribal leaders to schedule a 4 p.m. meeting for tomorrow in Sisseton.

Allison Renville, the public information officer, for the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate Tribe said Tuesday’s meeting will include tribal leaders, city and county leaders from the region. State lawmakers were also invited.

The goal is to discuss a coordinated plan to address rising COVID-19 rates, not just in tribal members but in the area as a whole, Renville said. Tribal members live, shop and work outside of the tribal lands, she said. Also, non-tribal members also visit casinos in Sisseton and in Hankinson, North Dakota, for example, Renville said.

Roberts County has 63 COVID-19 cases, she said. COVID-19 is also impacting several other counties in the region including Day, Renville said.

The Native American population in the U.S. has significant health disparities, including chronic diseases such as diabetes, cancer, and heart disease. Those types of underlying conditions can make them more vulnerable to COVID-19. 

As of Sept. 28, Native Americans make up 12% (458) of all 3,828 active COVID-19 cases in the state.

Research on Native American Health cites various factors that contribute to health issues in that population. One factor is perceived trust barriers. Also,  historical trauma, boarding schools, poverty and other factors contribute to health issues in the population, according to other studies.

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