PA organizes task force to address impact of COVID-19 on minorities

The coronavirus is cutting a particularly devastating swath through already vulnerable communities - that of black and Hispanic Americans.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf has announced the creation of a task force assigned to address the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on these communities.

The governor and Lt. Gov. John Fetterman said the COVID-19 Response Task Force for Health Disparity will help communicate issues with how the pandemic is affecting the state’s minority and vulnerable populations.

"We know of instances in Pennsylvania where major COVID-19 outbreaks have occurred in vulnerable communities, including ones where people do not speak English,” Wolf said. “We’re working to improve our data collection so we can get a better statistical understanding of how the virus has affected different groups of people. The Lieutenant Governor will be chairing a new Health Disparity Task Force that will work to identify short- and long-term consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic in our vulnerable communities.”

The coronavirus continues to kill African-Americans and Latinos at greater rates than any other group. In parts of the South, blacks account for 70 percent of the deaths (which is the case in Louisiana, where blacks account for 33 percent of the population), The New York Times reported.

While federal officials have linked the disparities to individual behavior — health statistics show that historically communities of color deal with greater rates of major risk factors such as poverty, pre-existing medical conditions and inadequate health care.

The COVID-19 task force will be led by Fetterman and be comprised of members of the Wolf administration, including the executive directors of each of the governor’s five commissions representing minority populations.

“It’s unconscionable for black, Hispanic, and Asian-Pacific Pennsylvanians to be hit harder by this pandemic, which has highlighted the systemwide inequity that already existed in these communities,” Fetterman said. “It’s our job to keep all Pennsylvanians safe, and we need to reach into these communities and create a line of communication straight to the governor, so we can stop the spread of COVID-19.”

Secretary of the Department of Health, Dr. Rachel Levine, noted that vital race information is missing from approximately 70 percent of the coronavirus data provided by health care providers.

“Yesterday we issued a reminder to hospitals and other providers that it is mandatory to report race data,” Levine said. “We need to gather this information for a complete picture of how the virus is affecting black or African-American, Hispanic and other vulnerable communities. An increase in reporting race data means less anecdotal evidence and more facts to rely on for accurately tracking where and how we can best serve our minority populations.”


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