Leaders searching for reason behind disproportionate number of African Americans with COVID-19

Posted at 11:24 PM, Apr 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-21 23:24:34-04

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CINCINNATI - According to statistics, a disproportionate number of African Americans are contracting and dying of COVID-19. Early data shows the community makes up 21% of patients across the state of Ohio, though black people make up around 13% of the population.

In his Tuesday news conference, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced there is now a statewide effort to combat the problem.

Cincinnati Health Commissioner Melba Moore and Vice Mayor Chris Smitherman are among the local leaders tasked with learning more about how COVID-19 impacts African Americans as the entire state continues the fight to flatten the curve.

“We know that our black and brown brothers and sisters, if you have asthma, if you have heart disease, if you have diabetes, hypertension, you’re going to be greatly impacted by this condition,” Moore said.

Moore said the strike force is about education and connecting with organizations that work directly with people of color.

“What we have seen, ironically, is a spike in demand over this past four weeks,” Urban League of Greater Southwestern Ohio President Eddie Koen said.

The Urban League launched a campaign called Corona 411, a weekly Facebook Live series designed to share information about the COVID-19 virus.

“We know that our community, justifiably so, has low trust when information comes from large entities, so we want to be that trusted source in the community to say ‘Here’s what’s right,’” Koen said.

The Urban League is also fighting to make sure legislation is designed to help all Americans is inclusive.

“Only one out of five (African Americans) can work from home ... because of the fact that we are the majority of essential workers,” Koen said. “This is a quantitative problem.”

That's one of several problems Moore and others say this new statewide group will help address.

“We’re listening,” Moore said. “We’re listening to the community. We want to hear from them. It needs to be collective listening and engagement and I believe the Strike Force is really going to get to the heart of that.”

The strike force is composed of 38 people from across the state, from pastors to healthcare professionals. A full list of task force members can be found here.