COLUMBUS — New data reveals that black people are being disproportionately affected by the coronavirus compared to their white counterparts.
"None of this should be surprising. Anyone who has followed public health knows that health disparities exist,” said State Representative and Ohio Minority Leader Emilia Sykes.
African Americans make up 13% of Ohio’s total population, yet 22% of folks affected by the coronavirus in this state are black.
White people make up a little less than 82% of Ohio’s population and just 49% of white people have been diagnosed.
Ten percent of folks who have the virus didn’t disclose their race, according to the Ohio Department of Health.
"After several weeks of us ringing that alarm and letting everybody understand and sharing that we knew to be true, finally the governor put together a strike force for the minority community,” said Sykes. '
Governor Mike DeWine created a minority strike task force to acknowledge and find solutions to black communities being diagnosed with the virus more than white communities.
Sykes is on that strike force and although they were only formed Monday, she already has some ideas.
"Testing throughout the state is woefully inadequate for sure, and when we think about resources and when there’s a scarcity of resources often times marginalized communities are not able to get those resources,” said Sykes.
In addition to increased testing in black communities, Sykes wants pointed and specific messaging for them and she’s calling for other 37 members of the strike force who are leaders in the health, business, religious and other sectors to be open to getting real.
"Knowing all the information that we know, that we don’t cover our eyes and say this is uncomfortable, this is a conversation we don’t want to have, instead take this information and use it for good,” said Sykes.
Yvonka Hall, the executive director of the Northeast Ohio Black Health Coalition, is not part of the strike force, but has been fighting against health disparities in black communities for years. Hall he says this pandemic is exposing deep rooted issues.
"African Americans have more of a circumstance that makes it harder to survive this pandemic. Deep rooted poverty, preexisting medical conditions, access to healthcare, less stable employment,” said Hall.
Both of these leaders say this strike force is a good first step, but it will take action to right this wrong.
"When we talked about the elderly population, it was very heartwarming to see everyone say, we’ll we’re going to stay at home because I care about our grandparents and our older family members,” said Sykes. “Now that we’re going to shift it to people of color or the black community, I hope folks can continue to feel that sense of community and that we are in this together,” she said.
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