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COVID-19’s impact on Native and Indigenous communities in the Four Corners

Mark Duggan

The omicron variant of COVID-19 is tearing through Native American and Indigenous communities. KSUT’s Sarah Flower reached out to Dr. Loretta Christensen of Indian Health Service (IHS), the Chief Medical Officer of an agency that provides health services to more than 2.6 million American Indian and Alaskan Natives. She provided an update on how the virus is affecting Native communities.

Dr. Loretta Christensen
Indian Health Service
Dr. Loretta Christensen, MBA, MSJ, FACS, an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation, serves as the chief medical officer of the Indian Health Service.

Key takeaways:

• Indian Country was hit very hard at the beginning of the pandemic due to pre-existing social determinants including health challenges, health equity issues, lack of running water, utilities, food access, and multi-generational homes where transmission is much more likely.
• IHS and Native American tribes were exceptional in their approach to vaccine distribution and administration of vaccines, rallying their communities on tribal lands, but also including local non-natives to keep the broader community safe from the virus.
• With a surge like omicron, IHS has been consistent with testing and community response has been strong. IHS has facilities across 37 states, including labs that do PCR testing, and that has stayed intact so far, as well as providing home tests early to avoid people gathering in lines. A concern is can suppliers keep up with this surge?

Listen to the interview for more details.


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