Governor Whitmer and Mayor Duggan Address Racial Health Gap Amid COVID-19

John Hopkins University reports Michigan ranks third in the nation in confirmed COVID-19 cases, just trailing New York and New Jersey. Wayne county, home of Michigan’s largest city Detroit and largest Black population, ranks third among virus related deaths.

According to census.gov, approximately 14 percent of people in Michigan identify as Black or African American. Yet, michigan.gov reports African Americans account for 40 percent of COVID-19 deaths. Two out of five people in Michigan that die from the coronavirus are Black.

“Right now in the middle of this crisis we have to do everything we can to educate, support and to protect all people and focus on communities of color,” Governor Gretchen Whitmer said in an interview with BuzzFeed News’ AM to DM Wednesday.

“COVID-19 is holding up a mirror to the United States of America in seeing that we’ve had historic disparities in outcomes for people of color…access to health care…these are all realities that we’ve known are a part of our economy, a part of the reality that people of color are confronting in the United States of America. It’s not acceptable. It never has been.”

It’s no secret Michigan’s largest Black population resides in Detroit. Just over 78 percent of Detroit’s residents are Black (as reported by census.gov).

Wednesday, the city of Detroit began reporting COVID-19 cases by race. African Americans accounted for just over 52 percent of confirmed cases, and nearly 76 percent of deaths.

Additionally, according to Chief Public Health Officer, Denise Fair, race is unknown for about 40 percent of Detroit cases so those true percentages could potentially be higher than reported.

“We know that members of this city are more vulnerable to dying from COVID-19 than Caucasians,” said Mayor Duggan in his latest press briefing.

“The life expectancy of African Americans is shorter than it is Caucasians, chronic disease whether it’s hypertension, whether it’s diabetes, whether it’s asthma…is much higher in the African American community.”

Duggan previously spent 9 years as CEO of the Detroit Medical Center.  He says during that time the hospital saw more uninsured, Medicaid, and African American patients than probably any hospital system in the Midwest.

“What the coronavirus is doing is exacerbating the racial health gap that has existed in this country for a very long time,” says Duggan.

“I hope when this is over it causes the country to really examine the question why these racial disparities have been allowed to persist.”

Governor Whitmer echoes Mayor Duggan’s sentiments.

“It’s even more clear right now that we’ve got work to do as a country. Beyond this, we got a lot of work as a nation to do to address those inequities that have been contributing to this horrible situation that we are all confronting. “

 

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