Virtual town hall discusses racial disparity in Detroit coronavirus (COVID-19) cases

DETROIT – The Detroit Civil Rights, Inclusion and Opportunity Department hosted a forum on Thursday night to discuss how coronavirus (COVID-19) is affecting African Americans at a higher rate.

During the forum they identified problems and discussed solutions. African Americans make up 15 percent of the state’s population but account for 35 percent of COVID-19 cases.

As of April 7, African Americans represented 41 percent of COVID-19 deaths in the state. The next-closest race was caucasian, at 28 percent.

READ: Why is coronavirus (COVID-19) death rate so high for African Americans?

The conversation noted that of the people who live in poverty in southeast Michigan, 3 percent are white and 24 percent are African American.

“If you never knew what social health was, well, here we are,” Anika Goss said.

A panel of experts from the city and the state shared thoughts and answered questions starting with why African Americans are disproportionally contracting COVID-19.

“A lot of critical infrastructure workers, grocery stores, you know, doing, riding the public transportation and what not. They’re lower income, they’re more like;y to be, therefore, people of color. Talk about going to the grocery store. People can’t go to a grocery store and spend $500 at one time so they don’t have to go back for another six weeks. That doesn’t make any sense." -- Michigan’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Joneigh Khaldun said.

The city nor the state can fix the social ills while fighting coronavirus, but the panelists agreed it’s important to not ignore they exist after the latest crisis has exposed them.

“It’s not that race is invisible. It’s that race has been ignored,” Rochelle Riley said. “It took this particular pandemic to make people understand that there are underlying social ills"

Some of the solutions discussed were education, specifically noting that the state needs to spend more per child in Detroit than in other areas.

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