Gov. signs order creating coronavirus task force on racial disparities 

    Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist at the Mackinac Policy Conference | Susan J. Demas

    Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Monday signed Executive Order No. 2020-55 that creates the Michigan Coronavirus Task Force on Racial Disparities. 

    It comes as the COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately impacted communities of color throughout Michigan. For example, while African Americans represent 13.6% of the state’s population, they make up a staggering 40% of the deaths from the virus. The task force will act in an advisory capacity to Whitmer and will study the causes of racial disparities in the impact of COVID-19. It will recommend ideas to immediately address disparities and systemic inequities.

    Gov. Gretchen Whitmer gives an update on COVID-19 | Gov. Whitmer office photo

    “COVID-19 has taken a disproportionate toll on Michigan’s communities of color and I am confident this task force will help us identify the factors driving this disparity and to identify actions we can take to create a more equitable Michigan for everyone,” Whitmer said.

    Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist chairs the body and said he has lost 15 people in his life to COVID-19.* He spoke about challenges such as environmental and health care factors that disproportionately impact many people of color.

    “… Despite the progress that has been made for generations in terms of bending our arcs toward justice, we still have to build, and 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,” Gilchrist said.

    The body will recommend actions to address disparities and suggest ways to:

    • Increase transparency in reporting data regarding the racial and ethnic impact of COVID-19.
    • Remove barriers to accessing physical and mental health care.
    • Reduce the impact of medical bias in testing and treatment.
    • Mitigate environmental and infrastructure factors contributing to increased exposure during pandemics resulting in mortality.
    • Develop and improve systems for supporting long-term economic recovery and physical and mental health care following a pandemic.

    The task force also includes Robert Gordon, Department of Health and Human Services director, or his designee; Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive; and two dozen appointees, including Audrey E. Gregory, chief executive officer of the Detroit Medical Center; Mona Makki, director of the ACCESS Community Health and Research Center; and Jamie Paul Stuck, Tribal Council chairman and member of the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi Tribal Council. 

    Appointees are not subject to the advice and consent of the state Senate.

    Ken Coleman
    Ken Coleman covers Southeast Michigan, economic justice and civil rights. He is a former Michigan Chronicle senior editor and served as the American Black Journal segment host on Detroit Public Television. He has written and published four books on black life in Detroit, including Soul on Air: Blacks Who Helped to Define Radio in Detroit and Forever Young: A Coleman Reader. His work has been cited by the Detroit News, Detroit Free Press, History Channel and CNN. Additionally, he was an essayist for the award-winning book, Detroit 1967: Origins, Impacts, Legacies. Ken has served as a spokesperson for the Michigan Democratic Party, Detroit Public Schools, U.S. Sen. Gary Peters and U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence. Previously to joining the Advance, he worked for the Detroit Federation of Teachers as a communications specialist. He is a Historical Society of Michigan trustee and a Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Detroit advisory board member.