There are just over 11,000 members of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians. The Indian reservation spreads across 10 counties and is comprised of 8 communities - mostly in the east central part of the state. Three counties Newton, Neshoba and Leake are part of the Choctaw reservation. And they have been under heightened restrictions because of rapid increases in coronavirus cases relative to their populations.
State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs says Native Americans in Mississippi are almost 8 times more likely to become infected with the virus than any other ethnicity and are dying at a disproportionately higher rate.
“If we look at the mortality rate, the mortality rate among Native Americans is 174 per 100,000 compared to a mortality rate of 39 per 100,000 in African Americans and 21 per 100,000 in Caucasions,” said Dobbs. “So, much much higher.”
Dobbs says Native Americans in Mississippi have a coronavirus case rate of more than 1500 per 100,000 people. That’s compared to a rate of 834 in black Mississippians and 282 in whites. But why? Dr. Kerry Scott is the Interim Chief Medical Officer at the Choctaw Health Center in Philadelphia. He says much like African Americans, Indians share similar underlying health conditions that make them more susceptible.
“Within the Native American population there’s lots of diabetes, hypertension and those chronic conditions,” said Scott.
Scott says they are pinpointing most cases to two settings: community transmission and nursing homes.
The Choctaw Residential Center, a nursing home for tribal members, reported 20 residents dying from the coronavirus as of June 11. That’s the second largest number of deaths reported in a long term care facility in the state.