A Wisconsin Department of Health Services chart shows that Native Americans in Wisconsin are dying at a higher rate than any other ethnic group.
A Wisconsin Department of Health Services chart shows that American Indians in Wisconsin are dying at a higher rate than any other ethnic group.
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Claire DeRosa / Wisconsin Watch

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After limiting the spread of COVID-19 early in the pandemic, American Indians are now dying from COVID-19 at a higher rate than any other ethnic group in Wisconsin, the Green Bay Press-Gazette reports.

“Tribal health officials had attributed the early success to stringent health mandates on the reservations, such as social distancing and wearing masks, and frequent safety communications to tribal members,” Frank Vaisvilas reports. “Then in the fall, cases and death rates started to climb drastically among American Indians, with the largest spike in deaths in November.”

American Indians make up just .9% of Wisconsin’s population and 1.4% of its COVID-19 deaths, many of whom are respected elders, Vaisvilas reports. 

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“With heavy hearts, we join our fellow Wisconsinites and Americans who are mourning the loss of someone they love and who, amid unimaginable challenges, have had to endure unfathomable grief this past year. We must reaffirm our resolve to prevent further spread of COVID-19, save lives, and to defeat this pandemic together.”

Gov. Tony Evers after ordering that flags be flown at half-staff to remember the than 500,000 Americans, including more than 6,300 Wisconsinites who have died of COVID-19

“I feel people are using the frame of Black people aren’t taking the vaccine because of things that happened in the past, but what I’m seeing is Black people haven’t even been afforded the option to learn more about this vaccine or receive this vaccine.” 

Melody McCurtis, a community organizer in Milwaukee’s Metcalfe Park Neighborhood, speaking to WPR 

Data to note

Here’s a look at the Department of Health Services’ vaccine dashboard, which shows that 47.3% of Wisconsinites ages 65 and older have gotten at least one dose — as have 14% of the state’s overall population. Racial disparities persist in distributing vaccines. The shares of Black, Hispanic and Native American residents to receive a dose remain significantly below that of white residents.    


Public health officials continue to urge Wisconsinites to wear masks and practice physical distancing until vaccinations are more widely distributed. 

WisContext offers this visualization of Wisconsin COVID-19 infections and deaths.

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Calculate your exposure risk

In Wisconsin, even small gatherings can carry a risk of exposure to the coronavirus, according to a nationwide tool that estimates the danger by the size of gathering and county in which it is held. Data scientists at the Georgia Institute of Technology and Stanford University developed the tool, which you can find here

Resilient Wisconsin

People helping others and showing resilience during this time of anxiety. Send suggestions by tagging us on social media — @wisconsinwatch — or emailing us: tips@wisconsinwatch.org

How to cope with increased health anxiety during the pandemic WPR 

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