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Significant reduction in racial disparities of COVID-19 cases and deaths reflected in new data from MDHHS

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (left) and Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist (right)

New data from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services shows progress has been made toward reducing the disparate impact COVID-19 has had on communities of color.

While Black residents only make up 15% of Michigan’s population, they represented a staggering 29.4% of the cases and 40.7% of the deaths in the early days of tracking COVID-19 data based on race. In the past two weeks of available data, the state has seen significant progress in limiting the disparate impact of COVID-19 on communities of color, with Black residents accounting for 8.2% of cases and 9.9% of deaths.

To continue the administration’s efforts to tackle racial disparities, the state of Michigan has created the Rapid Response Grant program, which has awarded 31 grants for a total of nearly $20 million of CARES funding to local organizations. The grants must be used to address food and housing insecurity, provide technology and tablets, increase access to testing and flu vaccines, improve contract tracing, provide basic needs and fund operations.

In addition, the administration  launched the Michigan Coronavirus Task Force on Racial Disparities to act in an advisory capacity to the governor. The task force studied the causes of racial disparities in the impact of COVID-19 and recommended actions to immediately address such disparities and the historical and systemic inequities that underlie them.

The task force’s broad-based representation and collaboration with state departments facilitated the following actions:

  • Distributing large quantities of masks to the public;
  • Launching a strategic communications and social media effort targeting communities of color;
  • Collaborating with regional racial disparity task forces to share data and recommendations for additional actions;
  • Increasing access to coronavirus testing in communities of color through drive-thru, walk-up, and mobile testing sites.

” Access to testing and adequate resources to protect communities of color will continue to be a priority as we fight COVID-19.” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive and chief deputy for health at MDHHS.

“We have reason to be proud of the hard work and progress made to reduce the disparate impact of COVID-19 on Black people,” Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist said. “However, we cannot lose sight of the fact that we are still in the midst of a pandemic that continues to take the lives of our friends and family. We still have work to do to tackle generations of racial disparities and inequality to ensure that all Michiganders can lead happy and healthy lives. (And) more than anything else we need to keep the Governor’s emergency measures in place to limit the spread of this virus, which we know causes disproportionate harm among people of color who start out in a more vulnerable position.”


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