LANSING, Mich. — On Thursday, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the Michigan COVID-19 Task Force on Racial Disparities, lead by Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist, released an interim report detailing the significant progress the state has made in protecting communities of color from the spread of COVID-19.
“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,” Whitmer said in a press conference Thursday.
The governor went on to say, Lt. Gov. Gilchrist and the leaders on the task force have been crucial in helping 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," Whitmer continued. "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.”
Lt. Gov. Glichrist said the pandemic has uncovered the health, economic, and educational challenges that communities of color face daily.
“Today’s report shows that significant progress has been made toward our goal to reduce these disparities over the past six months," Lt. Gov. Glichrist said during the press conference. "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.”
The 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 Nov. 16, more than 24,000 tests have been administered in previously underserved communities across 21 different testing sites. The state-operated sites provide free COVID-19 testing on a consistent schedule, several days per week.
From March and April to September and October, the average cases per million per day for African American Michiganders dropped from 176 to 59, according to the report.
In the same period, the number of probable deaths per million per day among African American Michiganders dropped significantly, from 21.7 to 1.
The governor said that in order to sustain the progress made and address ongoing disparities, the task force will continue working around the clock to protect vulnerable communities. There are a number of areas the task force will focus on, as stated in the press release, 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.
During the press conference, Governor Whitmer was asked if the state would extend its three-week pause on indoor dining, in-person learning, etc. She said they are looking at data every single day, but there is a concerning amount of activity that happened around Thanksgiving. She warned that could make December and January potentially big for a rise in cases.
"As we get a few more days of information under our belts, we’ll be in a much stronger position to asses if there are some things that are safer to do," said Whitmer, "But if we have to make some extensions of the current pause in some realms, that’s sadly possible because of the sheer volume of COVID."
Whitmer also encouraged supporting local businesses and ordering takeout. Plus, emphasized the individual responsibilities of Michiganders, such as wearing a mask and avoiding gatherings to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
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