Indian country starts new year with rise in COVID-19 cases

Office of the Navajo Nation President and Vice President: Town Hall COVID-19 – January 4, 2022

Indian country starts new year with rise in COVID-19 cases

Thursday, January 6, 2022

By Acee Agoyo


Tribal communities across the country are again seeing an explosion of COVID-19[female[feminine cases after the busy festive season and as a new highly contagious variant is shaking up Indian country. Some tribes are re-imposing lockdowns, the likes of which have not been seen since the start of the coronavirus pandemic nearly two years ago. Others warn of negative impacts on their health care system due to the Omicron variant which is spreading rapidly in the United States. “Of course you know that the Omicron variant nationwide has overtaken the Delta variant”, President Jonathan Nose from Navajo Nation said during a COVID-19 town hall on Tuesday. “It was just our time, I guess, that Omicron was here,” Nose said of the greatest reserve in the countryside.

The Navajo Nation has confirmed its first case of the COVID-19 Omicron variant through surveillance and sequencing of coronavirus results. Image: Office of the Navajo Nation President and Vice President
The Navajo Nation confirmed its first Omicron case on Monday, on the Utah portion of the reservation. The variant arrived despite a high vaccination rate against COVID-19 – more than 72% of tribal citizens over the age of 12 were fully vaccinated on Wednesday, according to the latest data. But strong public health measures are proving no match for Omicron, which has contributed to sky-high infection rates across the United States since it was first confirmed Dec. 1. “We did our best,” Nez said of his tribe, one of the two largest in terms of number of citizens. “We’ve been extremely successful in pushing this, keeping this variant out of the Navajo Nation.” “But it’s all around us,” Nez added, pointing to COVID-19 data from the states of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. “It’s everywhere. It’s very contagious. The other largest tribe is also experiencing upheaval, signaling a shortage of monoclonal antibody drug (MAB), which has been used to treat COVID-19 disease in patients. Even so, the Cherokee Nation Wednesday warned that the treatment doesn’t seem to be as effective when it comes to Omicron. “Current studies of monoclonal drugs have also been shown to have limited efficacy against Omicron variant infection,” said a post on social media of the 14 county reservation in northeastern Oklahoma read. “As a result, the federal government has reduced the supply of MAB to prioritize more effective treatments, and Cherokee Nation is working diligently to acquire these new treatments as they become available.” Other tribal communities are dealing with the fallout from Christmas, when families gathered in large numbers and people traveled at levels not seen for two years. the Laguna Pueblofor example, began the first full week of 2022 on Monday with reporting a “sudden spike in COVID-19 cases” this leadership attributed to the holiday season. From Wednesday, the the tribe reinstated strict measures affecting travel to and from the reservation, located along a busy highway not far from New Mexico’s most populous city. In addition, a public ceremony related to the swearing in of new officials in Laguna was canceled the day before of the annual event. Pueblo tribes elsewhere in the state, which typically hold leadership ceremonies on Jan. 6, have also imposed the limits of public gatherings amid the wave of coronavirus sweeping the nation. And no corner of Indian country is spared. According to the latest data from the Indian health service, COVID-19 cases spiked dramatically – and across all regions – after the Christmas holidays. On Wednesday, the 7-day rolling average positivity rate hit a record high of 21.7%, the highest since the IHS began reporting data nearly two years ago. The rate is calculated by tallying the number of coronavirus tests that came back positive for COVID-19 over a seven-day period.

On December 25, 2021, the 7-day rate was 9.1%. This means the IHS has seen a 138% increase in COVID-19 cases since Christmas, based on rolling average positivity data. Getting vaccinated remains one of the best ways to protect against COVID-19, according to public health officials. During a visit to an urban Indian supplier in Northern California in early December, Elizabeth Fowler, the Acting Director of IHS, said the agency is stepping up its efforts to remind and encourage people to complete their dosing series and get boosted as soon as possible. “We are doing everything we can to raise awareness of COVID-19 vaccine booster clinics and eligibility,” Fowler said during the Native American Health Center in Oakland on December 7. “IHS expects to reach over 300,000 patients at our direct care sites before the holidays.” “We need to get the word out to everyone who is eligible,” said Fowler, a citizen of the Comanche Nation who is the IHS’s top official.

Preserving Our Future: Vaccine Toolkit for Parents and Families

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, American Indians and Alaska Natives have suffered disproportionately despite the U.S. government’s trust and conventional responsibility to provide health care to tribes and to their citizens. Infection rates, hospitalization rates and death rates have been highest among all racial and ethnic groups, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data. American Indians and Alaska Natives, however, saw the the highest vaccination rates in the country since doses became more widely available in the spring of 2021. It wasn’t until recently, around November 2021, that the vaccination rate for Asians began to exceed that for Indigenous people, according to CDC data. But the natives seem to have failed to keep up when it comes to receiving a booster dose for the COVID-19 vaccine. According to CDC data, American Indians and Alaska Natives actually lag behind most other racial and ethnic groups when it comes to receiving another blow. As of Thursday, 58.9% of American Indians and Alaska Natives had received a booster, the data showed. Only Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders had a lower rate, 53.3%. All adults over the age of 18 are eligible for boosters, IHS Director Fowler said last month. The extra fire may help protect against the fast-spreading Omicron and Delta variants, health officials say. “Many IHS sites send letters, postcards and flyers explaining recall eligibility to patients and informing them of their eligibility,” said Fowler in California, where the 7-day positivity rate is highest in the world. within the IHS from Wednesday. Amid the nationwide outbreak surrounding the Omicron variant, public health officials point out that a surge in cases can easily overwhelm healthcare systems. As with the Delta variant, most infections occur in those who have not been vaccinated against the coronavirus. “The Omicron variant, so far, appears to be less severe than the Delta,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden, said during a briefing. ‘a White House press briefing Wednesday. “But remember the caveat: the rapid spread in the community is seeing more children hospitalized – again, mostly among the unvaccinated.” As of January 3, more than 2 million doses of the three COVID-19 vaccines licensed in the United States have been administered by IHS, which consists of facilities operated directly by the agency, by tribes and by Indian suppliers. urban. The figures cover each IHS location in the lower 48 states. Facilities in Alaska have elected to receive their vaccine doses through the state system.

Note: Thumbnail photo of Navajo Nation Headquarters in Window Rock, Arizona by Office of the Navajo Nation President and Vice President

COVID-19 cases by IHS area

Data comes from IHS facilities, tribal and urban Indian organizations, although reporting by tribal and urban programs is voluntary. Data reflects cases reported to IHS up to 11:59 p.m. on January 5, 2022.

IHS area







7 day rollover



Alaska 906 886 29,029 763,936 3.7% 11.8%
Albuquerque 129,746 10,632 97,723 9.8% 13.6%
Bemidji 254,418 20,709 232,959 8.2% 25.6%
Billings 136,935 10,303 122,742 7.7% 8.6%
California 141,761 13,753 122 163 10.1% 28.5%
great plains 212,024 19,569 191,713 9.3% 20.7%
Nashville 132,583 11,589 117,648 9.0% 26.3%
Navajo 395 915 47,427 289,427 14.1% 21.4%
Oklahoma City 837 450 101,555 723,556 12.3% 25.8%
Phoenix 253,348 33,222 218,669 13.2% 26.6%
Portland 188,549 13,272 174,723 7.1% 22.0%
Tucson 54,702 4,551 50,028 8.3% 23.6%
TOTAL 3,644,317 315 611 3,105,287 9.2% 21.7%

COVID-19 test data is updated on Mondays and Thursdays.

Source: Indian Health Service (

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