Flint task force formed to address racial disparities following COVID-19

Published: Apr. 22, 2020 at 11:00 PM EDT
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(4/22/2020) - The Community Foundation of Greater Flint has announced a new task force that will look at the racial disparities in the Flint community as a result of COVID-19 and economic recovery.

Clarence Pierce is the CEO of the Hamilton Community Health Network and on the front line of the new the Greater Flint Coronavirus Task Force on Racial Disparities.

The goal is to get a better understanding of health disparities faced by minorities around the county, and come up with solutions.

"Many of our patients are of the minority class," said Pierce. "So I think having their vested interest at heart is extremely important."

According to the Genesee County Health Department, African-Americans made up 43% of the county's 1,364 positive COVID-19 cases as of Wednesday. There were 137 deaths reported, with the group accounting for 51% of that number.

"People need to stay home. We have to give the medical system and the public health a chance to catch up," said Dr. Debra Furr-Holden. "If we don't we are going to make the problem worse and prolong the inevitable."

Furr-Holden is an epidemologist and associate dean of Public Health at Michigan State University. She's also on the coronavirus task force for Flint and the state.

"What we're seeing during this pandemic are the disparities that existed before hand," said Furr-Holden. "Access to healthcare, transportation, living in poverty the impact of those things during this pandemic are amplified."

The Community Foundation of Greater Flint announced the Hamilton Community Health Network and Michigan State University's Division of Public Health have joined with the Mott Foundation, city of Flint, Flint and Genesee Chamber of Commerce and Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church to form the task force

With a potential vaccine possibly months away, figuring out how to fix the gaps is top priority. In addition, getting as many people tested as possible is key.

"Our health depends on everybody else's health as well," said Pierce. "We're all in it together, and we have to make sure we work together to solve it."

The Hamilton Community Health Network is planning to open two mobile testing sites in the near future.