(WXYZ) — It's been one year since the state began fighting racial disparities uncovered during the COVID-19 pandemic with the Michigan Coronavirus Task Force on Racial Disparities, chaired by Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist.
While the task force has helped get COVID-19 cases under control among Black Michiganders, the fight has moved towards increasing vaccinations in those communities, which are lagging behind majority-white areas.
Gilchrist said for the past year, the state has been doing interventions, with free masks and neighborhood testing sites, to help reduce the mortality rate. Now, they're using that same infrastructure to make vaccines available to people where they are.
"Every person in Michigan who has not yet gotten vaccinated is one conversation away from making that choice," Gilchrist said.
He said the "Making Real Change" tour he's undertaking will equip people who have been vaccinated with how they can encourage others to do the same, particularly in communities of color, where vaccine hesitancy appears to remain an issue based on numbers.
In Detroit, 20.4% of residents have received the vaccine. In Wayne County, 38%; in Oakland County, 40.9%; and in Macomb County, 33.4%.
Gilchrist said Black people make up 14 percent of the state's population, and a year ago at this time, African Americans accounted for 40% of COVID-19 deaths in the state.
"We were able to now have it that Black Michiganders make up less than 10% of people who are getting COVID-19, less than 10% of people who are dying and that's been true, even as we saw cases start to increase a few weeks ago," Gilchrist said. "So, we're proud of that progress. We know that progress is fragile, so we have to stick with it."