State says work to address racial disparities of COVID-19 cases and deaths is working

Published: Sep. 29, 2020 at 3:53 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - The state of Michigan says significant progress has been made toward addressing racial disparities in COVID-19 deaths and cases within the past two weeks.

While Black residents only make up 15% of the population, they represented 29.4% of the cases and 40.7% of the deaths in Michigan in the early days of tracking the virus by race.

Data from the past two weeks show Black people now make up 10% of deaths and 8% of cases in the state.

Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist, who lost 23 people to the virus, says these new numbers show some progress.

“It is better for everyone in Michigan if less people are getting infected with COVID-19 and if less people who have particular vulnerabilities are getting infected. It is better for the state of Michigan if less people are dying from COVID-19,” said Gilchrist.

Gilchrist believes the creation of the special task force six months ago and their focus on addressing the racial disparities was key.

“It shows that when we focus on a problem, we can make progress toward addressing it. The state has been unapologetic about the fact that racial disparities are present. We’ve been transparent in the reporting about this issue and we’ve had the most full-throated response of any state to try to respond to it,” said Gilchrist.

Ingham County Health Officer Linda Vail says the work the task force is doing is very important, but it’s also important to remember the recent numbers are only a snapshot in time.

“We’ve just had so many cases and so much testing this month that were in different populations that it would look like that. Now look at the death rates though, and you will see that 31% or 32% of deaths are in our African American population so that disparity is very clear. The actual cases are kinda getting obscured just based on who is currently getting tested and infected,” said Vail.

The state also unveiled a new Rapid Response Grant Plan to continue their efforts to tackle racial disparities. The program will grant funding to local organizations for things like food and housing insecurity, technology, increased testing and improved contact tracing.

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