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Lt. Gov. says COVID-19 racial disparities task force will address systemic issues

"Rather than just studying the problem and making a report later, we're assembling a team of experts that can take action in real time."
Credit: AP
Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist ends the senate session after voting to extend the state of emergency to a 23-day extension at the State Capitol in Lansing, Mich., Tuesday, April 7, 2020. The legislature held a highly unusual session Tuesday to vote whether to extend Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's state of emergency. (Clarence Tabb, Jr./The Detroit News via AP)

The governor signed an executive order Monday creating a task force to address and respond to the stark racial disparities present in the COVID-19 pandemic. 

"Rather than just studying the problem and making a report later, we're assembling a team of experts that can take action in real time," said Lt. Gov Garlin Gilchrist, who is heading up the task force.

According to state leaders, African Americans represent 13.6% of Michigan’s population, yet they represent 40% of the state's COVID-19 deaths.

In addition to Gilchrist, the Michigan Coronavirus Task Force on Racial Disparities will include Department of Health and Human Services Director Robert Gordon and Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh S. Khaldun, along with 24 other members appointed by the governor. 

"Despite the progress that has been made for generations in terms of bending our arches toward justice," Gilchrist said during a Monday afternoon press conference. "We still have to respond to generations of racial disparities and inequity that have impacted communities of color across our state and across the country."

Watch Lt. Gov. Gilchrist speak about the task force's mission:

Michigan was one of the first states nationwide to begin reporting COVID-19 data along racial lines. Gilchrist said the data has shown a specific and severe racial disparity. 

The disparities reveal a systemic problem, Gilchrist said, that stems from things like access to proper health care and environmental injustices that have led to an increased risk of exposure for African American communities. 

"I've lost 15 people in my life to COVID-19, and a number of others who are connected to me professionally, personally or in my family who are fighting this infection in the hospital, right now" Gilchrist said. 

The task force will investigate the causes of racial disparities, recommend actions to address them and suggest ways to do thing likes remove barriers to health care access and reduce the impact of medical bias in testing and treatment. Additionally, the task force will recommend changes to state law as it applies to combating racial disparities in the impact of response to pandemics. 

The task force will continue its work through the emergency declaration and the following 90 days after, unless otherwise instructed by the governor.

The appointed members of the task force include the following:

  • Brandi Nicole Basket, D.O., of Clinton Township, is the chief medical officer for Meridian Health Plan Michigan Market.  
  • Matthew L. Boulton, M.D., of Ann Arbor, is the senior associate dean for Global Public Health and director of the Minority Health and Health Disparities International Research Training Program at the University of Michigan.  
  • Renée Branch Canady, Ph.D., of Lansing, is the chief executive officer of the Michigan Public Health Institute.  
  • Denise Brooks-Williams, of Detroit, is the senior vice president and chief executive officer of the Henry Ford Health System North Market.  
  • Dessa Nicole Cosma, of Detroit, is the executive director of Detroit Disability Power.  
  • Connie Dang, of Jenison, is the director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs and special assistant for Inclusive Community Outreach at Grand Valley State University. 
  • Marijata Daniel-Echols, Ph.D., of Farmington Hills, is the program officer at W.K. Kellogg Foundation.  
  • Debra Furr-Holden, Ph.D., of Flint, is an epidemiologist, the associate dean for Public Health Integration at Michigan State University, and the director of the Flint Center for Health Equity Solutions.  
  • Audrey E. Gregory, Ph.D., of Franklin, is the chief executive officer of the Detroit Medical Center.  
  • Whitney Griffin, of Detroit, is the director of Marketing and Communications for the Downtown Detroit Partnership.  
  • Bridget G. Hurd, of Southfield, is the senior director of Diversity and Inclusion at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.  
  • Curtis L. Ivery, Ph.D., of Detroit, is the chancellor of Wayne County Community College District.  
  • Solomon Kinloch Jr., of Oakland Township, is the senior pastor at Triumph Church in Detroit. 
  • Jametta Y. Lilly, of Detroit, is the chief executive officer of the Detroit Parent Network.  
  • Curtis Lipscomb, of Detroit, is the executive director of LGBT Detroit.  
  • Mona Makki, of Dearborn, is the director of the ACCESS Community Health and Research Center. 
  • Alycia R. Meriweather, of Detroit, is the deputy superintendent of the Detroit Public Schools Community District.  
  • Randolph Rasch, Ph.D., of East Lansing, is a professor and dean of the Michigan State University College of Nursing.  
  • Celeste Sanchez Lloyd, of Grand Rapids, is the community program manager for Strong Beginnings at Spectrum Health and a fellow in the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.  
  • Jamie Paul Stuck, of Scotts, is the Tribal Council chairman and member of the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi Tribal Council.  
  • Maureen Taylor, of Detroit, is the state chair of the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization.  
  • LaChandra White, of Allen Park, is the director of the UAW Civil and Human Rights Department. 
  • M. Roy Wilson, M.D., of Detroit, is the president of Wayne State University.

Do you have more questions about COVID-19 in Michigan? Check out the state's website.

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