Wayne State University President M. Roy Wilson has been appointed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to the Michigan Coronavirus Task Force on Racial Disparities, which will examine the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on communities of color statewide.
Wilson has called on Michigan leaders to improve the underlying social and structural conditions that have enabled the virus to have an inordinately lethal effect on African Americans in particular. In Michigan, blacks make up less than 14% of the state population — but account for about 33% of all COVID-19 cases and 40% of all deaths from the novel coronavirus.
“The deadly disparities playing out in black and brown communities today are largely a result of underlying conditions that have persisted in our communities long before this outbreak,” said Wilson, who formerly served as a deputy director at the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities of the National Institutes of Health. “Our fight against COVID-19 demands that we confront and eliminate these conditions.”
Wilson is also a member of the health care advisory group of the Michigan Economic Recovery Council assembled by Gov. Whitmer.
The new coronavirus task force will be charged with increasing access to COVID-19 testing for vulnerable communities along with an array of other duties:
- Increasing transparency in reporting data regarding the racial and ethnic impact of COVID-19.
- Removing barriers to accessing physical and mental health care.
- Reducing the impact of medical bias in testing and treatment.
- Mitigating environmental and infrastructure factors contributing to increased exposure during pandemics resulting in mortality.
- Developing and improving systems for supporting long-term economic recovery and physical and mental health care following a pandemic.
“This virus is holding a mirror up to our society and reminding us of the deep inequities in this country,” said Gov. Whitmer. “From basic lack of access to health care, transportation and protections in the workplace, these inequities hit people of color and vulnerable communities the hardest. This task force will help us start addressing these disparities right now as we work to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in Michigan.”
“We know that generations of racial disparities and inequality has a detrimental impact on the lives of people across the state,” Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist said. “The coronavirus pandemic has shown this inequity to be particularly true, especially in the black community, where the health of our friends and family has been disproportionately impacted. That’s why we are taking immediate action to assemble some of the greatest minds to tackle this racial injustice now and in the future.”