Top 5 Takeaways

  1. Disproportionately Higher COVID-19 Impact on AI/AN Persons: AI/AN individuals in Alaska experienced COVID-19 illness, hospitalization, and death rates approximately 2 to 3 times higher than White persons during 2020 and 2021.
  2. Challenges Due to Geographic and Systemic Barriers: The significant disparities are attributed to several factors, including the geographic inaccessibility of many AI/AN communities and systemic issues such as historical trauma and structural racism.
  3. Importance of Culturally Competent Public Health Efforts: Tailored, culturally sensitive public health initiatives, developed in collaboration with AI/AN communities, are essential for mitigating COVID-19 disparities.
  4. Data Analysis Methodology: A retrospective analysis of COVID-19 case, hospitalization, and death data reported to the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services from March 12, 2020, to December 31, 2021, highlighted these disparities.
  5. Call for Continuous Collaboration and Support: Ongoing support for vaccination and COVID-19 prevention strategies, alongside efforts to achieve health equity, are crucial for AI/AN populations in Alaska.

Original Article Author and Citation

Corresponding Author

Lowrie A. Ward,

Suggested Citation

Ward LA, Black KP, Britton CL, Tompkins ML, Provost EM. COVID-19 Cases, Hospitalizations, and Deaths Among American Indian or Alaska Native Persons — Alaska, 2020–2021. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2022;71:730–733. DOI:


The study underlines the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on AI/AN persons in Alaska compared to White individuals, with AI/AN persons experiencing significantly higher rates of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths. These disparities are attributed to systemic barriers, such as geographic inaccessibility and historical trauma, underscoring the need for culturally sensitive public health interventions.


A retrospective analysis of data reported to the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services during March 12, 2020–December 31, 2021, was conducted. This analysis focused on age-adjusted COVID-19 incidence, hospitalization, and mortality rates among AI/AN and White persons in Alaska, using standardized methods to account for population differences.


The findings reveal that AI/AN persons face substantial COVID-19–related health disparities. These disparities likely stem from a combination of factors, including systemic health inequities and challenges associated with living in remote areas. Public health efforts need to be culturally competent and designed in collaboration with AI/AN communities to effectively address these disparities.


AI/AN persons in Alaska are at an increased risk for COVID-19 and its severe outcomes. Addressing these disparities requires culturally competent, collaborative public health efforts, including support for vaccination and other COVID-19 prevention strategies.


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