LANSING, Mich. -- In case you missed it, the successes of the Michigan Coronavirus Task Force on Racial Disparities were highlighted in an Oct. 14 Politico article
that analyzed states’ responses to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
Governor Whitmer and Lt. Governor Gilchrist announced in late September that the task force made significant progress toward reducing the disparate impact COVID-19 has had on communities of color. While Black residents only make up 15% of Michigan’s population, they represented a staggering 29.4% of the cases and 40.7% of the deaths in the early days of tracking COVID-19 data based on race. On Sept. 28, the state announced that Black residents accounted for only 8.2% of cases and 9.9% of deaths.
When Michigan was hit hard during the country’s initial wave in March and April, Black residents accounted for over 40 percent of Covid-19 deaths while making up just 14 percent of the population. The state in mid-April created a task force to address racial disparities in Covid-19, making it one of just a dozen similar health equity task forces
across the country, and one of the few specifically focused on Covid-19, according to the National Governors Association.
“We’ve done a lot, and the result that we’ve seen over the last couple of months is that we have flattened the disparity in the mortality rate,” said Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist II in the article. “It speaks to the power of focus and prioritization.”
“Michigan, I think, is impressive because they created that task force on racial disparities early on,” said Heather Howard, director of the State Health and Value Strategies program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the former state health commissioner in New Jersey. “And a clear focus of the task force has been incorporating equity into the long-term recovery from the pandemic.”
Vulnerable populations, including those in nursing homes, homeless shelters, and prisons have gotten extra attention for Covid containment. In May, Michigan became one of the first states to test every prisoner, doing so within 15 days. Only a few states like North Carolina followed suit with their own mass testing programs this summer.
By the fall, Michigan had dramatically narrowed Covid-19 disparities, with Black residents comprising just 8 percent of new cases and 10 percent of deaths in the last two weeks of September.
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