Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist provided an update on the Michigan Coronavirus Task Force on Racial Disparities.
Gilchrist said that when the task force was formed, officials knew that COVID-19 was disproportionately impacting people of color, and it soon became clear that people of color often don't have the financial luxury of working from home, take public transportation due to lack of personal vehicles and don't have access to quality health care.
Chief Medical Executive Joneigh Khaldun said that in Michigan, African Americans have comprised 33 percent of COVID-19 cases. More than 40 percent of deaths in Michigan are African Americans, but only 14 percent of Michiganders are African Americans.
All of these dynamics left people of color overexposed to COVID-19, and it is reflected in data. As of Friday, there have been 6,289 deaths from COVID-19 in Michigan; 2,457 of those were Black Michiganders.
For nearly four months, Gilchrist said the task force has been hard at work to provide real solutions to the problem.
So far, the task force has directed the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to develop implicit bias training and declared racism as a public health crisis in Michigan.
Additionally, drive-thru and walk-up testing has been expanded, particularly for Detroiters who don't have access to private vehicles. A mobile testing partnership has also been established with Ford Motor Company and Wayne State University, which capitalizes on interactions between residents and health care providers, along with increasing access to doctors.
"Each action that we've taken on the task force is thought to make immediate and long term impact on communities," Gilchrist said. "The most immediate thing to do right now is to wear a mask to slow the spread of this deadly virus."
Gilchrist also said that the state task force encouraged regions to create their own racial disparities task forces, and made sure people of color got civil rights protections.