YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Ohio Governor Mike DeWine released recommendations from the Minority Health Strike Force on Thursday.
The Minority Health Strike Force was created to tackle the issue of racial disparities in COVID-19 cases.
Currently, African Americans make up 14% of Ohio’s population but represent 26% of positive COVID-19 cases, 31% of COVID-19 hospitalizations and 17% of COVID-19 deaths in Ohio, according to the Ohio Department of Health.
Youngstown Mayor Tito Brown was named to the strike force in April. He says the recommendations made by the strike force are fairly fresh, but once implemented will be used to aid in the slowing down of the spread COVID-19.
“The governor made the announcement yesterday and all the recommendations are there, but I don’t think the logistics are there yet,” Brown said.
Among the recommendations listed was an increase in the number of public health workers who can help notify Ohioans of possible exposure to the virus.
A $1 million grant will also be issued by Gov. DeWine’s Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives and the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services. It will be spread out to different organizations to provide mental health and addiction services for hard-to-reach individuals.
“Those are some of the things they’re gonna be looking to see how you qualify and then, we will definitely be looking from a city’s perspective to help those agencies and organizations to get engaged and get involved because we need that to happen in our community,” Brown said.
Ohio will also be partnering with the Ohio Association of Community Health Centers and the Nationwide Foundation to distribute thousands of community wellness kits. These kits will contain COVID-19 protection-related items, such as face coverings, hand sanitizer and soap.
Brown says these efforts are not only important to the Mahoning Valley, but to all of Ohio.
“It’s not just us, we’re not in a ship by ourselves, we’re not alone in the situation, it’s statewide. It’s been uncovered that if there’s issues in one part of the state that may not be in the other part of the state, but now we’re uncovering that this is all over the state. Now, it’s a greater spotlight in how it’s a greater focus,” Brown said.
One of the recommendations in the report is to expand access to testing. Ohio has partnered with the Ohio Association of Community Health Centers which represents Ohio’s Federally Qualified Health Centers. This includes 55 Community Health Centers at 378 locations.
Among these efforts will be a new communications campaign called “Stay in the Fight.” This will be aimed at Ohio’s minority populations.
“We’ll just continue to talk to the state and the Minority Health Task Force. I’m sure we’ll get more clarification,” Brown said.
These recommendations are not final. On June 11, final recommendations will be issued.
Brown said in the meantime, people should continue to take the virus seriously and the city will continue to work with the governor and Dr. Amy Acton.
“To make sure that those who are most vulnerable are getting tested,” he said.
There are several reasons we may see racial disparities in cases such as COVID-19. Some include education, health and economics, according to Jimmy McWilson, secretary and chair of the Education, Employment and Social Justice Committee of the Youngstown chapter of the NAACP.
“Those three things give you a lot better options than other things, and people who have those options, take those options,” he said in a previous interview.
He also stated, one of the reasons we may see racial disparities could be a ripple effect dating back to when minorities were prohibited from getting medical treatment.
Brown said now more than ever it is important to seek medical attention when feeling sick.