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Duke University Study: Governor Whitmer’s Michigan Coronavirus Task Force on Racial Disparities “Making Lasting Structural Change”

LANSING, Mich. – A recent study by the Duke-Margolis Center for Health Policy and the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices found that Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s Michigan Coronavirus Task Force on Racial Disparities, which is led by Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist II, has made significant and sustainable progress towards its goal of reducing health-based racial disparities associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.

The study also recommended that the lessons learned from the Michigan Coronavirus Task Force on Racial Disparities “can be applied in states and territories across the nation to address this longstanding and difficult challenge.”

“Our administration took swift action to address the pre-existing racial inequities in health that were dangerously exacerbated by the pandemic, and we are proud of the progress we’ve made towards eliminating COVID 19’s disproportionate impact,” said Governor Whitmer. “I want to thank the Michigan Coronavirus Task Force on Racial Disparities for their excellent guidance that has led to Michigan becoming an example to the rest of the country in how to fairly fight this pandemic and support vulnerable communities. We all have a personal responsibility to slow the spread of the pandemic and eliminate the virus as quickly as possible so we can return to a strong economy and get back to normal daily activities. I ask that Michiganders continue to follow public health guidance  by wearing face masks, socially distancing, and washing your hands as we continue to tackle the COVID-19 crisis.”

Last year in April, Gov. Whitmer created the Michigan Coronavirus Task Force on Racial Disparities in response to the COVID-19 pandemic’s disproportionate impact on communities of color. Although African Americans represent 13.6% of Michigan’s population, during the early stages of the pandemic they represented a startling 40% of all COVID-19 deaths. Gov. Whitmer created the task force to serve in an advisory capacity to the Governor and recommend actions to address these racial disparities and the contributing historic and societal inequalities.

“We are incredibly proud of the progress the Michigan Coronavirus Task Force on Racial Disparities has made in reducing the staggering, disproportionate impact COVID-19 has had on Black folks,” said Lt. Governor Gilchrist. “While we have come a long way, we are still living in the midst of this pandemic and in the wake of decades of racial injustices that have led to these health disparities. Our administration remains committed to reducing racial disparities of all kinds among our state’s vulnerable populations and continuing to fight this virus.”

Since April 2020, the case study found that Gov. Whitmer and the Michigan Task Force have substantially reduced the number of confirmed and probable COVID-19 deaths among Michiganders of color. Additionally, under Gov. Whitmer’s leadership, racism was declared a statewide public health crisis, six million free masks were distributed, more than 24,000 free COVID-19 tests were administered in underserved communities, and 30 community organizations were funded to address community needs. These bold actions have set the state for long-term, sustainable reductions in racial health disparities.

Governor Whitmer has taken additional actions to continue the task force’s work of addressing underlying inequities throughout the state by declaring racism a public health crisis, and by creating the Black Leadership Advisory Council and the Michigan Poverty Task Force, which serve in an advisory capacity to the governor.