Navajo Nation Has Highest Covid-19 Infection Rate in the U.S.
The Navajo Nation now has the highest per capita infection rate in the country. grandriver / E+ / Getty Images
The Navajo Nation, which is spread out through the American Southwest mostly in Utah, New Mexico and Arizona, now has the highest per capita Covid-19 infection rate in the country, as CNN reported.
The Navajo Nation's alarming surge in cases is another example of an underserved and historically marginalized minority population being particularly vulnerable to the coronavirus pandemic.
As CNN reported, the Navajo Nation had a reported population of 173,667 on the 2010 census. With 4,002 cases, the Native American territory now has 2,304.41 cases of Covid-19 per 100,000 people, overtaking New York has the most infected area per capita.
New York state now has a rate of 1,806 cases per 100,000 and New Jersey is at 1,668 cases per 100,000, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
The Navajo Nation already has high risk factors of comorbidities, including diabetes, lung disease, high-blood pressure, hypertension and heart disease. There's also a lack of running water, medical infrastructure, internet access, information and adequate housing, according to The Washington Post.
Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez told The Washington Post last week that the Nation had not "one cent" of the $8 billion that was allocated to Native American communities as part of the CARES Act passed in Washington on March 18.
The surge in cases in the Navajo Nation has overwhelmed rural hospitals that are ill-equipped to deal with the novel coronavirus. Near Gallup, New Mexico, there is only one hospital within 110 miles of the town center. Now, the hospital's eight intensive care beds are all full, meaning coronavirus patients with severe breathing problems are sent away from both the facility and the adjacent Gallup Indian Medical Center, which attends exclusively to the Native American community, according to The Associated Press.
Only five of 12 Indian Health Services facilities in the Navajo Nation are tracking recovered coronavirus cases, meaning the number of infected patients is probably higher than what is reported. The Department of Health is now asking all facilities to keep an accurate count of recovered cases, according to the Navajo Times. So far, 24,886 Covid-19 tests have been administered with 18,380 negative results.
"The Navajo Nation is now engaged in large-scale testing and we are now testing at a greater rate than any other state in the country based on population," said Nez, as the Navajo Times reported. "Without the weekend lockdowns that we've implemented based on advice from our health care experts, we would be seeing higher numbers."
Nez added that he estimates about 80 percent of the Navajo Nation population is staying home, but the 20 percent who continue to venture out are still spreading the virus.
The Navajo Nation has implemented some of the country's strictest stay-at-home orders. Even essential workers who leave their house must have a documented letter from their manager with a verifiable contact number, as CNN reported.However, one of the reasons for the spread is that Navajo tend to live in close quarters with multiple generations in one household. For the 30 to 40 percent of the population that lacks adequate running water, it is also impossible to wash hands frequently and properly.
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A Game of Jenga<p>Think of it as a game of Jenga and the planet's climate system as the tower. For generations, we have been slowly removing blocks. But at some point, we will remove a pivotal block, such as the collapse of one of the major global ocean circulation systems, for example the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), that will cause all or part of the global climate system to fall into a planetary emergency.</p><p>But worse still, it could cause runaway damage: Where the tipping points form a domino-like cascade, where breaching one triggers breaches of others, creating an unstoppable shift to a radically and swiftly changing climate.</p><p>One of the most concerning tipping points is mass methane release. Methane can be found in deep freeze storage within permafrost and at the bottom of the deepest oceans in the form of methane hydrates. But rising sea and air temperatures are beginning to thaw these stores of methane.</p><p>This would release a powerful greenhouse gas into the atmosphere, 30-times more potent than carbon dioxide as a global warming agent. This would drastically increase temperatures and rush us towards the breach of other tipping points.</p><p>This could include the acceleration of ice thaw on all three of the globe's large, land-based ice sheets – Greenland, West Antarctica and the Wilkes Basin in East Antarctica. The potential collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet is seen as a key tipping point, as its loss could eventually <a href="https://science.sciencemag.org/content/324/5929/901" target="_blank">raise global sea levels by 3.3 meters</a> with important regional variations.</p><p>More than that, we would be on the irreversible path to full land-ice melt, causing sea levels to rise by up to 30 meters, roughly at the rate of two meters per century, or maybe faster. Just look at the raised beaches around the world, at the last high stand of global sea level, at the end of the Pleistocene period around 120,0000 years ago, to see the evidence of such a warm world, which was just 2°C warmer than the present day.</p>
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The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation has a major effect on the climate. Praetorius (2018)
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