Ohio Democrats said they were “outraged” by Gov. Mike DeWine’s proposal for addressing the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on Ohio’s black population.
African Americans make up 14 percent of Ohio’s population, but represent 26 percent of positive COVID-19 cases, 31 percent of COVID-19 hospitalizations, and 17 percent of COVID-19 deaths.
As a result, Gov. DeWine formed a “Minority Health Strike Force,” which released a set of “preliminary” recommendations Thursday.
The task force called for establishing “culturally appropriate and accessible COVID-19 exposure notification services for communities of color,” expanding testing capacity and access for minorities and high-risk populations, using “data to prioritize resources in the communities that have the highest need,” and launching a “culturally-sensitive outreach campaign that educates African Americans and communities of color on COVID-19.”
Other proposals included the creation of a new position in the Ohio Department of Health “dedicated to social determinants of health and opportunity.”
House Minority Leader Emilia Strong Sykes (D-Akron) said the governor’s recommendations represent the “easiest path forward, the lowest possible hanging fruit, and such simple steps should have been implemented six weeks ago to have any significant impact.”
“The governor had the chance to do something important today and he let us down,” she continued. “While I appreciate the conversation today on the struggles communities of color have faced for generations that are usually overlooked and ignored, it is too little, too late for this pandemic.”
Sykes said she won’t be able to take anything the governor “says on this topic seriously” until he admits that “structural racism is the root cause of health disparities.”
“The discussion today felt impersonal and insincere; if he is unwilling to expose the real truth of the situation, he should move on. As the state now reopens, the time for the strike force to strike and have any meaningful impact has passed,” she concluded, calling the governor’s delay in action “unforgivable.”
Rep. Stephanie Howse (D-Cleveland), president of the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus, said African Americans and “other people of color in Ohio do not need recommendations, they need action and dedicated resources to reverse the irreplaceable harm racism has induced on minorities.”
“Anything short of direct action is a disgrace and a clear message that our black and brown families and communities are not valued during these unprecedented times,” she added, saying members of the Legislative Black Caucus were “outraged” by the governor’s proposal.
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Anthony Gockowski is managing editor of The Minnesota Sun and The Ohio Star. Follow Anthony on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “House Minority Leader Emilia Sykes” by the Ohio House of Representatives, and “Gov. Mike DeWine COVID-19 Press Briefing” by The Ohio Channel.