As previously reported, African Americans are disproportionately affected by COVID-19. Now, as states begin to reopen, federal and state officials have acknowledged these disparities and plan to take serious action to protect those more susceptible to illness and death from this severe respiratory illness, reports Stateline.  

Stateline contacted 16 states where Black residents make up a larger proportion of the population than the national rate of 13% to find out what measures are being taken.

Data showed that most states said they were assembling task forces and conducting health disparity studies. However, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, New York, South Carolina and Virginia supplied the most details about how they were allocating special medical resources and social services to low-income and Black neighborhoods.

Some states are providing additional testing in Black communities and contact tracing and distributing personal protective equipment, such as masks and hand sanitizers, door-to-door.  Others are working with trusted local community organizations, such as Black churches and historically Black colleges and universities, to reach people.

States such as New York and North Carolina, are providing temporary COVID-19 housing for those with the virus in order to protect their loved ones from the risk of exposure. Additionally, some states are offering cash assistance to those who lost wages during quarantine to help buy food and address other needs.

Virginia, Michigan, South Carolina and Tennessee have created walkup testing sites and mobile units to assist residents without cars, and North Carolina and South Carolina increased their testing of asymptomatic residents.

New York has instituted 24 temporary testing sites in churches in minority neighborhoods and is offering free testing to public housing residents in the city. In Mississippi, officials are using Head Start programs to help share coronavirus-related information to clients.

These are a just a few of the initiatives being implemented at the state level. But only time will tell whether these actions will make a difference in mitigating the spread of the coronavirus in Black neighborhoods.

“We’ve got to address the specific underlying problems in these urban neighborhoods and rural communities as quickly as possible,” stressed Lisa Cooper, MD, MPH, a professor of medicine and public health at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and an international expert on health disparities. “Is it because there’s not enough testing? Not enough doctors or ventilators in the hospitals? Overcrowded housing and not enough access to food?”

For related coverage, read “Magic Johnson Offers COVID-19 Advice for African Americans” and “Yes, You Should Wear a Face Mask to Cut Coronavirus Transmission.” Also, click here for more coronavirus coverage.