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Ohio officials declare racism a public health crisis 'highlighted' by COVID-19

Ohio officials declare racism a public health crisis 'highlighted' by COVID-19
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Officials in an Ohio county declared that racism is a public health crisis that has been highlighted by the coronavirus pandemic. 

Franklin County Commissioners declared that “racism is a public health crisis affecting our entire county” in a resolution passed Tuesday.

The resolution declares that the “disparity is highlighted” by county coronavirus data showing black residents are hospitalized at twice the rate of other demographic groups. 

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“Racism has been a pandemic long before the current coronavirus pandemic,” Commissioner Kevin L. Boyce said in a statement released .

“Our declaration today is important, but it’s not saying anything that hasn’t been apparent for a long time,” he said in a statement Tuesday following the vote. “COVID-19 has highlighted the health divide between black and white Ohioans, however, and I hope that it can be the catalyst we need to reform the whole health system so that it works for all of us equally.”

Franklin County includes the city of Columbus. 

In passing the resolution, the county commissioners joined county public health officials who approved a similar declaration last week.

The commissioners’ resolution notes black Ohioans have lower life expectancies than white neighbors, as well as an increased likelihood of dying due to heart disease or stroke. 

The resolution also notes black infants have higher mortality rates and lower birth weights, and notes the Health Policy Institute of Ohio’s finding that black women are more likely to have postpartum, but are less likely to get treatment. 

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The county board of commissioners President John O’Grady said the existing system results in “different outcomes for people based on the color of their skin.” 

“That’s not acceptable,” he said. 

Commissioner Marilyn Brown said the inequities stem from “hundreds of years of systemic racism, from slavery to segregation, redlining to Jim Crow, and discrimination in housing, finance, and education, some of which persists today.”

“We won’t solve these things overnight, but it’s important to start by recognizing them and beginning to work purposefully for change,” Brown added. 

The racial disparity from coronavirus data is not limited to Franklin County. Statistics from states across the country have shown that black and Latino communities are being disproportionately affected by the coronavirus pandemic.