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Health

COVID-19 race disparities task force rolls out final report

Garlin Gilchrist speaks on racial disparities and COVID-19
Casey Hull
/
Governor Gretchen Whitmer executive office
Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist at rollout in Detroit of COVID-19 racial disparities task force report

Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist stopped by a community center in Detroit to roll out the findings of a task force that examined racial disparities in the impact of COVID-19.

Gilchrist led the Michigan Coronavirus Racial Disparities Task Force, which has been meeting since 2020, when health experts first noted a trend of African Americans being infected and dying at a dramatically higher rate than the overall population.

The task force determined multiple factors compound the risk of severe illness or death for people in communities of color. Those include people who don’t have good health insurance, don’t have a primary care doctor, and don’t have access to broadband internet — which means no access to telemedicine services.

“It’s easier to be healthy if you have a relationship with a medical professional,” said Gilchrist at an event hosted by the Detroit Association of Black Organizations.

The group also found many front-line workers are not sufficiently protected against infectious diseases.

Doctor Natasha Bagdasarian, Michigan’s chief medical executive, also spoke at the event.

“While the disparities existed long before COVID-19, the virus put a spotlight on the issue and made it impossible to unsee,” she said. “Simply put, communities of color have been hit harder by the pandemic, both in terms of overall cases and in terms of deaths.”

Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s budget proposal includes a $20 million to help reduce the disparity.

Gilchrist says the group’s work will help make sure the state will be better prepared to ensure an equitable response if there’s another COVID surge, or when there’s another health crisis in the future.

“Whatever the evolution of this particular virus or whatever other sort of public health crisis we may be confronted with — hopefully, not too many of them — but that we can now have more tools, more infrastructure to be better prepared to deal with them across the board.”

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