Native Alaskans and Pacific Islanders experiencing disproportionate COVID cases and hospitalizations

Pacific Islanders and Native Alaskans are experiencing disproportionately higher positive COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Alaska, according to the latest data from the state.

During a press conference Tuesday, Alaska Chief Medical Officer Anne Zink, MD, described the some of the recent COVID trends related to race and ethnicity in Alaska.

 

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Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander (NHOPI) individuals make up just 1% of Alaska’s population but account for 4% of the state’s COVID cases. By comparison, white individuals make up about 66% of Alaska’s population, but account for only 27% of the state’s cases – a 39% difference.

 

Image: State of Alaska

 

Disparities are also seen in Alaska’s hospitalization rates. Statewide, approximately 4% of all people who tested positive for COVID ended up needing to be hospitalized. For Pacific Islanders, however, approximately 20% of cases resulted in hospitalizations. Next on the list, 15% of cases among Asian individuals resulted in hospitalization, followed by 14% of Alaska Native cases.

 

Image: State of Alaska

 

“We also are seeing a difference in hospitalization rates, particularly within the Pacific Islander community and the Asian community, as well as the Native American community. [We’re seeing] higher rates of hospitalized per COVID patient. There’s a lot of reasons for this and we continue to work with local communities to try to do everything we can to prevent these disease outbreaks as well as hospitalizations and deaths,” said Zink.

Zink says additional data related to the age ranges of people who are being hospitalized will hopefully be available next week. But, she says recent data shows hospitalizations increasing across a broad range of ages.

“When we look at each of the individual age groups, we see people in almost every age group that are hospitalized. The older someone is and the more co-morbidities, the more likely they are to be hospitalized if they have COVID. But because we see so many people who have COVID in their 20s, 30s, and 40s, we actually saw kind of a surprising number of people in that age group requiring hospitalization just because there was so many people in that group that do have COVID because that’s really where this epidemic is being driven right now,” she said.

The state’s next COVID weekly update is scheduled for Tuesday.