Coronavirus has had a disproportionate impact on black communities throughout the country, and while a few states have started to track data along racial lines, others have started to take more aggressive steps.
NBC News reports that Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has signed an executive order forming a task force to investigate the impact of coronavirus on black communities. In Michigan, data shows that despite only representing 14 percent of the population, black people have comprised 40 percent of the state’s coronavirus-related deaths. “The deep inequities people in communities of color face, like basic lack of access to health care or transportation or protections in the workplace, have made them more susceptible to COVID-19,” Whitmer, a Democrat, said in a news conference announcing the order.
From NBC News:
The Michigan Coronavirus Task Force on Racial Disparities will examine the causes and recommend actions to address such systemic health inequities. Led by the state’s lieutenant governor, Garlin Gilchrist, the task force will be composed of government officials, health professionals and community leaders.
The task force is dedicated to Skylar Herbert, who, at 5 years old, is the youngest person in Michigan to have died of the coronavirus, Gilchrist said Monday. Both Whitmer and Gilchrist are Democrats.
Skylar lived in a “predominant black neighborhood,” the lieutenant governor said. “This task force will serve in her memory to ensure that we can limit the exposure for as many people, as many families as possible.”
The task force will make data across racial lines more transparent going forward. More importantly, it also seeks to identify and remove structural racism that prevents black citizens from getting equal treatment. This includes recommending changes to Michigan law that could ease racial health disparities, removing barriers that may prevent access to proper healthcare and developing systems to ensure long-term recovery from both a healthcare and economic standpoint. While we’ve seen states such as California and New York begin to release data detailing case numbers by race, this hasn’t been instituted at a federal level.
Michigan has been particularly hard hit by the virus, ranking seventh in the country as of Wednesday with 32,929 cases and 2,812 deaths. Despite this, some residents took to the streets last week to protest the stay-at-home order currently in effect. Whitmer warned that those demonstrations may result in the order having to be extended.