This week the governor of Michigan signed an executive order that will form a task force to investigate the disproportionate number of Black people being infected and dying from the coronavirus.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer held a news conference and said, “The deep inequities people in communities of color face, like basic lack of access to health care or transportation or protections in the workplace, have made them more susceptible to COVID-19.”
The order referenced data that shows Black residents have made up more than 40 percent of the coronavirus related deaths in Michigan despite being only 14 percent of the state’s population.
The task forced will be called the Michigan Coronavirus Task Force on Racial Disparities. The task force will be led by the state’s lieutenant governor, Garlin Gilchrist, and composed of government officials, health professionals and community leaders. The goal of the task force is to examine the causes and recommend actions to address the systemic health inequities.
The task force is dedicated to Skylar Herbert, who, at 5 years old, is the youngest person in Michigan to have died of the coronavirus, Gilchrist said Monday.
Skylar lived in a “predominant black neighborhood,” the lieutenant governor said. “This task force will serve in her memory to ensure that we can limit the exposure for as many people, as many families as possible.”
Among its other goals are to increase transparency in reporting racial and ethnic data and mitigate structural racism that prevents black and brown residents from receiving proper care.
Other cities, including Oakland, California, and Cleveland, have also created task forces to study how the pandemic has disproportionately affected and killed black people, but Michigan appears to be the first state to do so.
While the task force will remain in place until the end of the pandemic, Gilchrist hopes to continue fighting systemic racial disparities. “This is not something we can solve overnight,” Gilchrist said. “But it’s something that we can work on every day to make a difference.”