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COVID-19 Deaths Dropped Among Black Michigan Residents, Report Says

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Black residents in Michigan have been disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus, but a report the state released Friday shows that virus-related deaths for those residents fell last spring to a third of what they were at the beginning of the pandemic.

The final report by the Michigan Coronavirus Racial Disparities Taskforce says that between March 2020 and June 2021, the average number of deaths per day among white residents has remained relatively stable at about three per 1 million residents.

An average of 15.6 Black residents per 1 million residents died on a daily basis early in the pandemic, about 40% of the total deaths. That number dropped to 4.5 deaths per 1 million residents in spring 2021.

The task force, created by an executive order from the governor in summer 2020, examined the causes of the disproportionate impact COVID-19 on communities of color and made recommendations to address the problems.

Michigan hasn't been alone in seeing people of color disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. An Associated Press report showed that in the first month of the pandemic, Louisiana, which has an African American population of 32%, found that 70% of COVID-related deaths out of 512 tracked deaths were Black residents.

While communities of color continue to be disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, the task force's report shows improvements. Taking into account historical racism in health care and lack of access, the task force took steps to create programs that helped more people get health insurance, increase testing in high-need areas, and embed Neighborhood Testing Sites that provided cultural and language assistance services that created rapport with locals to then educate and advocate for vaccines.

The task force recommends in its report that the state improve its race and ethnicity data collection so that it can better track progress or problems in health care. It also asks that the state continue to fund programs that have been shown to be successes like the Neighborhood Testing Sites.

This summer, health care workers in Michigan will be required to start undergoing annual "implicit bias" training to combat inequities in care, a requirement the task force recommended last year.

© 2022 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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