May 14, 2020

COVID-19 has spread to most New Mexico tribes

While Navajo people represent the worst hit by COVID-19 in absolute numbers — Navajos represent 45% of all New Mexico’s positive cases – two Pueblo communities are being hit harder, by percentage of their population, according to data provided by state health officials. 

About 11% of Zia Pueblo and 4% of San Felipe members have contracted the virus compared to about 2% of Navajo Nation members who live in New Mexico.

The New Mexico Department of Health provided New Mexico In Depth a detailed breakdown of the number of positive cases by tribal affiliation through Monday. Those numbers show that the great majority of tribes in the state have cases of COVID-19.

The New Mexico Department of Health provided this chart to New Mexico In Depth on Monday, May 11, showing the tribal affiliation of Native American people in New Mexico who have contracted COVID-19 through Monday.

Navajo people represented 2,194 of the state’s 5,069 cases on Monday. Reported separately were non-contiguous Navajo chapters. Ramah, located in southwest New Mexico near Zuni Pueblo, had 38 cases. Alamo, located just west of Socorro, had 34 cases. In To’hajiilee near Albuquerque, the Cañoncito Navajo chapter had just 5 cases. 

The largest outbreaks of COVID-19  in Pueblo tribes continue to be in Zia, San Felipe, Zuni and Kewa (Santo Domingo). An additional nine Pueblos plus the Jicarilla Apache tribe each have a handful of cases. 

The reported cases among tribal communities, combined, make up almost 60% of all positive cases in New Mexico. As of Monday, 50% of all people who had died of COVID-19 in New Mexico were Native American. As a group, New Mexico’s 23 tribes compose just 11% of the state population. 

Communities of color have the highest rates of hospitalization in New Mexico, according to the New Mexico COVID-19 modeling group’s latest report, yesterday. Following Native Americans, who are hospitalized at much higher rates than any other racial or ethnic group, black and Hispanic people are hospitalized the most. 

But according to a statistic called the case fatality rate in the modeling group’s report, the disease is proving most fatal to white people who have contracted COVID-19.  A case fatality rate is the percentage of people with a condition who’ve died. 

As of Monday, the case fatality rate for white people is 8.4%, compared to 3.4% for the next largest group, Native Americans. White New Mexicans accounted for 14% of all positive cases in the state, while composing 37% of the population as a whole. But they accounted for 60 of the 200 deaths, 30%. 

The modeling report does not provide data that might shed light on why white people are dying at higher rates. But older people make up the bulk of those who’ve died, according to data provided daily by the governor’s office. Nearly two-thirds of those who’ve died — 63% — were older than 70. And 36% were residents of nursing homes or assisted living facilities. 

This article first appeared on New Mexico In Depth and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.