American Indians, Alaska Natives hit harder by COVID-19, U.S. CDC says

FILE PHOTO: A discarded mask is seen on the ground, as the global outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, in Los Angeles, California, U.S., April 23, 2020. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

(Reuters) - American Indians and Alaska Natives have been hit harder by COVID-19 than the U.S. white population and have been more likely to become infected by the novel coronavirus at a younger age, a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report showed on Wednesday.

The incidence of laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 cases among people identified as American Indians or Alaska Natives was 3.5 times that of non-Hispanic whites, making them one of the racial and ethnic minority groups at highest risk, according to the study based on data from 23 U.S. states from Jan. 22 to July 3.

The data also showed that those testing positive for the coronavirus tended to be younger than white non-Hispanic people with COVID-19. The researchers found that 12.9% of infections among American Indians or Alaska Natives were in people under age 18, compared to 4.3% among non-Hispanic whites.

The study added to a growing body of evidence that long-standing health and social inequities have resulted in increased risk for infection and death from COVID-19 among American Indian and Alaska Native populations, the CDC researchers said.

Other factors such as reliance on shared transportation, limited access to running water and household size could increase risk for virus transmission, the researchers added.

“American Indian and Alaska Native people have suffered a disproportionate burden of COVID-19 illness during the pandemic,” CDC Director Robert Redfield said in a statement.

The CDC said it has provided $200 million in funding to support tribes and tribal organizations in carrying out COVID-19 preparedness and response activities.

Reporting by Mrinalika Roy in Bengaluru; Editing by Will Dunham