Valley leaders meet via Zoom to figure out why racial disparities exist from COVID-19


One question asked was, "Why are blacks and African Americans contracting the virus at a higher rate and dying at a higher rate?"

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AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – A virtual meeting took place on Thursday discussing the fight against racial disparities during COVID-19.

With more than 100 participants in the meeting, different topics were talked about by several speakers.

Dr. Lashale Pugh, a medical geographer, said COVID-19 is “changing our lives constantly, and a lot of these changes are likely to exist for a long time, maybe forever.”

James Baber of Eastern Gateway, and the president of ACTION, said the question to be discussed is, why are blacks and African Americans contracting the virus at a higher rate and dying at a higher rate?

Pugh shared a slideshow that pointed out some of the reasons for disparities. Some being a lack of equal treatment in past years, such as slavery, lack of health care resources and African Americans being thought of as “less than human.”

“Equal treatment for everyone is what we need,” Pugh said.

Pugh said there are several things that need to be done in order to reduce the disparity.

Identifying the extent of the disease in the population and funding for the non-profit and other organizations working at the community level were two suggestions.

Youngstown Mayor Tito Brown was also a speaker on the Zoom call. Mayor Brown has been appointed to the Minority Health Strike Force, which is a statewide group that is looking into the disproportionate number of minorities impacted by COVID-19.

Brown said one of his reasons for being on the task force is to make sure the residents of Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley benefit from his position.

He said there are several factors that contribute to the disparities we are seeing.

“The economy, education, housing, environmental justice, voting, returning citizens, all of these things play a key role in the health of the environment,” Brown said.

Brown also discussed the testing site that will be at the Covelli Centre on June 10 and 11.

Congressman Tim Ryan spoke next. Then, Leigh Greene of the Youngstown Health Department spoke on how this virus has affected the children in our area.

One of her slides showed a list of “Social Determinants of Health.” That list included things like crime, employment, food access, socioeconomics, environmental exposure and access to health services.

The purpose of the meeting was to gain an understanding of why there are racial disparities in COVID-19 cases so action can be taken to prevent it from moving forward.

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