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Alaska Natives have state’s highest death rate from COVID-19

Published: Dec. 13, 2020 at 1:28 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) -ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) -The number of deaths from COVID-19 continues to rise. A new state report finds Alaska Natives have been the hardest hit.

“We can see we’re starting to see a disproportional burden of both hospitalizations and deaths, particularly in our Native Indian/Alaska Native population,” said Alaska’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Anne Zink.

Zink says a new state report finds 37% of those who died from the virus in the state are Alaska Native, though they only make up 16% of the population.

The report reflects a national study released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control. It found Alaska Natives and American Indians had a COVID-19 death rate nearly twice that of non-Hispanic Whites.

“That’s an 80 percent increase in COVID-19 associated mortality in AI/AN people,” said Alaska Chief Epidemiologist, Dr. Joe McLaughlin. “Mortality was higher among men than among women.”

The CDC reported nearly 2,700 COVID-19 related deaths among Native groups as of December 2. Most of the deaths took place in men between the ages of 20-49.

“Universal face mask use, physical distancing, avoiding non-essential indoor spaces,” McLaughlin said about some of the ways people can protect themselves.

“Get tested. That’s the biggest thing,” added Zink. “We want people, especially at the very beginning of symptoms, to get tested.”

Meanwhile, the state report showed a growing number of Native Hawaiian and Pacific people have died from the virus.

Correction: This story has been edited to remove the statement that 37% of Alaska Natives who got COVID-19 have died from it. This statement is not accurate and was also published in another article, which has been removed from the Alaska’s News Source website.

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