Gov. Whitmer Cites Significant Progress in Protecting Communities of Color

Michigan’s Governor and Lt. Governor stepped to the mic this afternoon to share the release of an interim report from the state’s Racial Disparities Task Force telling us that it shows significant progress has been made in protecting communities of color from the spread of COVID-19.

Governor Whitmer and the Chair of the task force, Lieutenant Governor Gilchrist shared some of the details from that report.

Gov. Whitmer says, “From the beginning, our administration has listened to medical experts and taken a fact-based approach to eliminating COVID-19 in our most vulnerable communities, and we have seen significant progress.” She adds, “Lieutenant Governor Gilchrist and the leaders on the Task Force have been crucial in helping us dramatically reduce the number of cases, hospitalizations, and deaths in communities of color by expanding testing and providing crucial support to community organizations. Our work is far from over, and cases and hospitalizations are still rising statewide, but this team remains dedicated to working with medical experts and protecting our communities, frontline workers, and small businesses. Our immediate focus now is holding our progress, flattening the infection curve, and remaining vigilant with mask wearing and social distancing.”

For his part, Lt. Gov. Gilchrist tells us, “The coronavirus pandemic has shined a light on the health, economic, and educational challenges that communities of color face daily,” and adds, “Today’s report shows that significant progress has been made toward our goal to reduce these disparities over the past six months. But as cases continue to rise, we need to recognize that our work is not done because each of us have a role to play to make sure that we defeat this virus. When we successfully make it to the other side of this pandemic, we will hug each other a little tighter, check in on each other a little more, and be proud of the work we did to make each other’s lives better.”

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The Task Force’s interim report details a number of actions the state has taken to protect communities of color, frontline workers, and small businesses from the spread of COVID-19. As of November 16th, more than 24,000 tests have been administered in previously underserved communities across 21 Neighborhood Testing sites. These state-operated sites provide COVID-19 testing on a consistent schedule, several days per week. All sites offer free testing, and a prescription is not required for someone to be tested, nor is any form of ID required.

From March and April to September and October, the average cases per million per day for African American Michiganders dropped from 176 to 59. In the same period, the number of probable deaths per million per day among African American Michiganders dropped significantly – from 21.7 to 1.

M. Roy Wilson, Task Force Member and President of Wayne State University, says, “As a member of the Michigan Task Force on Racial Disparities, I am proud of the hard work we have done to protect communities of color from the spread of COVID-19,” and adds, “I want to thank Governor Whitmer and Lieutenant Governor Gilchrist for their leadership as we have fought to eliminate this virus. Our work on the task force is far from over, but the data is clear – we have taken swift, meaningful action to protect Michigan’s most vulnerable communities and save lives, and we will continue to do so until this fight is over.”

Maureen Taylor, Task Force member and State Chair of the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization, says, “When it became clear that the Black community was disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Whitmer and her administration took crucial action to eliminate that disparity and save lives.” Taylor reports, “Michigan has been recognized as a nationwide leader in addressing health disparities that have come to light as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic because the governor and lieutenant governor have dedicated themselves to ensuring equitable support for our most vulnerable communities throughout this crisis. We have made great strides, but we will remain vigilant and work day and night to protect the Black community from COVID-19 until this virus is gone for good.”

Celeste Sanchez Lloyd, Task Force member and Community Program Manager for Strong Beginnings at Spectrum Health, notes, “It’s clear that the work of this task force, created by Governor Whitmer and spearheaded by Lieutenant Governor Gilchrist, has made significant progress in protecting families, frontline workers, and small businesses in communities of color.” She adds, “As the weather gets colder and as we head into the holiday season, our most vulnerable communities will continue to need crucial support. We are committed to continuing to provide that support and work closely with the governor as she listens to health experts and takes a fact-based approach to ending the COVID-19 pandemic.”

NEXT STEPS FOR THE TASK FORCE

In order to sustain the progress made and to better address ongoing disparities, the Task Force will continue working around the clock to protect the most vulnerable communities in Michigan. The Task Force has identified a number of areas to focus on as we head into the holiday season and the cold winter months, including:

  • Closing the digital divide in telehealth and virtual learning to ensure equitable access for all Michiganders;
  • Increasing enrollment in health insurance plans by making it easy for Michiganders to find out about their options for affordable care, such as Medicaid and federal marketplace plans;
  • Building mobile testing infrastructure that can also be extended for other health services such as vaccine administration;
  • And raising awareness of racial- and ethnic disparities in medical care to ensure that every Michigander, no matter their race, can get safe and quality care in Michigan.

The Task Force has already taken steps to address those issues, and will continue working toward the goals as the State of Michigan continues to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Michigan COVID-19 Task Force on Racial Disparities consists of a variety of leaders from government, academia, and the private sector, health care, economic development, education, and other disciplines.

To view the Task Force’s full interim report, click the link below:

COVID-19-Task-Force-on-Racial-Disparities-Interim-Report