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Gov. Whitmer signs directive addressing racism as public health crisis and creates Black Leadership Advisory Council

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Posted at 10:11 AM, Aug 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-06 09:14:03-04

LANSING, Mich. — Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer created an advisory council to specifically address issues concerning the Black community in the state, she announced during a briefing Wednesday.

She also signed an executive directive declaring racism a public health crisis in Michigan.

The directive mandates that state departments examine data, develop and plan policies, as well as engage, communicate and advocate for communities of color, Whitmer said.

“I am proud to create the Black Leadership Advisory Council of Michigan,” Whitmer said. “We must confront systemic racism head on, so we can create a more equitable and just Michigan. This is not about one party or person. I hope we can continue to work towards building a more inclusive and unbiased state that works for everyone.”

The moves are meant to help fight racial inequity in the state. Members of minority communities have seen disproportionate impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic.

"This reflects long-standing, deep societal, economic and environmental disparities," Whitmer said.

Though the virus itself doesn't discriminate, it makes systemic inequities worse.

"The statistics are staggering," Chief Medical Executive Joneigh S. Khaldun said. "And we must do better. Let's be clear these disparities have nothing to do with genetics and race; they are due to unequal treatment and racism that have plagued our society for centuries."

The state will begin by implementing what's called an equity impact assessment, starting with the Department of Health & Human Services before expanding to other departments and agencies.

Other orders the governor has issued to address the issue include requiring implicit bias training for all state employees.

The deadline to apply to be on the Black Advisory Council is 5 p.m. on Aug. 19. Applications are available at michigan.gov.

News cases of coronavirus have plateaued in the state, but at a higher rate than officials would like to see, with over 600 new cases announced yesterday.

The Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo and Detroit regions currently have just over 40 cases per million people per day, Khaldun said, and have seen a steady decrease over the past two to three weeks.

The Jackson and Upper Peninsula regions have about 35 cases per million people per day and have also seen decreases. The Lansing region has just under 30 cases per million people per day, but has seen a two-week increase in the rate of cases.

The Traverse City region is currently the only region that has under 10 cases per million people per day and continues to see a decreasing trend, Khaldun said.

Watch the news conference