Coronavirus is killing Black Michiganders fastest. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is fighting back and Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II is leading the way.
MICHIGAN — Across the nation, African-Americans are dealing with an elevated risk from the novel coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, and few places is that more evident than in Detroit.
As a response, Michigan is launching the Michigan Coronavirus Task Force on Racial Disparities. The task force, chaired by Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II will be formed from leaders from state government and health care professionals from communities hardest hit by the pandemic in Michigan according to a recent announcement.
“We know that generations of racial disparities and inequality has a detrimental impact on the lives of people across the state,” Gilchrist said. “The coronavirus pandemic has shown this inequity to be particularly true, especially in the Black community, where the health of our friends and family has been disproportionately impacted. That’s why we are taking immediate action to assemble some of the greatest minds to tackle this racial injustice now and in the future.”
While only 14% of Michiganders are Black, Black people account for over half of the coronavirus deaths in Michigan, based on statistics reported by BuzzFeed,. This has been attributed to Black Americans working jobs that have a higher chance of putting them in situations that might see high rates of exposure, a lack of access to healthcare services and crowded living conditions among other factors.
“This virus is holding a mirror up to our society and reminding us of the deep inequities in this country,” said Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in the task force’s announcement.
And Detroit has one of the highest African-American populations in the nation, and people in Detroit face unique burdens to public health. As the Gander previously reported, the water crisis caused by the city shutting off access to running water to thousands of Detroit homes drew the ire of the United Nations six years ago, and weeks after water service was ordered restored to those Detroiters, still thousands remained without clean water.
Moreover, Black Detroiters already die at higher rates than other Detroiters according to the city’s health department, and those underlying conditions increase the dangers of the coronavirus. Though WDIV reports that these conditions are just a part of the broader picture of inequity during the pandemic.
“I’m almost afraid, I almost hate turning on my Facebook page, or even sometimes answering my phone,” Detroiter and former Free Press reporter Cassandra Spratling told Vox. “it makes me a little nervous when I get a phone call because I’m always afraid that it’s going to be somebody I know.”
The task force is not the only way Michigan is fighting against the broader problems caused by the pandemic. Whitmer has taken over thirty executive actions to respond to the coronavirus, including declaring a state of disaster.
“It shouldn’t take a global pandemic for us to address these problems,” said Whitmer. “It shouldn’t take a crisis for us to expand unemployment benefits, ensure protections for workers who are sick, or expand access to quality, affordable health care. We’re going to come out of this, but we must also learn some hard lessons about the deep problems in our economy that we need real, meaningful solutions on.”