Navajo Nation

Coronavirus Batters the Navajo Nation, and It's About to Get Worse

The fear of what's ahead is based on precedent. During the swine flu epidemic of 2009, Native Americans died at four to five times the rate of other Americans

Nina Mayer Ritchie

A month after the Navajo Nation, which stretches across parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah, saw its first confirmed case of the coronavirus, the tribe has reached a grim milestone. At least 1,197 Navajo residents have tested positive for the coronavirus, while 44 have died, NBC News reports.

The Navajo Nation has a per capita infection rate 10 times higher than that of neighboring Arizona and the third-highest infection rate in the country behind those of New York and New Jersey.

With only 12 health care facilities across 27,000 square miles and a prevalence of chronic health issues like diabetes, the largest and most populous reservation in the U.S. is doing everything it can to cope with an outbreak that is expected to get even worse.

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The fear is based on precedent. During the H1N1 flu epidemic in 2009, Native Americans died at four to five times the rate of other Americans.

"We don't know what's going to happen. We don't know if there's lasting immunity. We don't know if you can get re-infected," said Dr. Diana Hu, a pediatrician at one of the reservation hospitals.

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