COLUMBUS, Ohio — On Thursday, Gov. Mike DeWine spent much of his COVID-19 news conference focusing on the impact that the virus is having on minorities.
For instance, DeWine stated that the African-American community has been disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus, citing that while African-Americans make up 13%-14% of population in Ohio, 26% of those testing positive for COVID-19 are African-American. Also, African-Americans make up 31 percent of COVID-19 hospitalizations, and 17 percent of COVID-19 deaths in Ohio.
"I am deeply concerned about this data. I am the Governor of all of Ohio, and when I see something disproportionately affecting some of our citizens, I have a responsibility to do something," said Governor DeWine. "To augment on the work that we are currently doing on health equity and to address the immediate threats posed by COVID-19 to our minority communities we intend to move forward with the strike force's recommendations, and we have several additional efforts that are ready to get underway."
Here were some of those 'additional efforts' that DeWine announced on Thursday:
1. The state is creating a new position at the Ohio Department of Health: Deputy Director of Social Determinants of Health and Opportunity. "The person in this position will focus on the community conditions that affect health, well-being, and economic vitality," DeWine explained. "This new Deputy Director will lead Ohio's response to social determinants of health and disparity."
2. To expand access to COVID-19 testing in minority communities, the state has partnered with The Ohio Association of Community Health Centers, which are placed in the state's most economically depressed communities and offer high quality comprehensive primary care.
3. The state is also partnering with The Ohio Association of Community Health Centers and the Nationwide Foundation to distribute thousands of Community Wellness Kits. These kits will help protect families in communities disproportionately affected by COVID-19. The kits contain COVID protection-related items, such as face coverings, hand sanitizer, and soap.
4. To support health departments in their efforts to fight COVID-19 and the disproportionate impact on people of color in Ohio, DeWine announced that the state is "significantly increasing" the number of public health workers who can help notify Ohioans of possible exposure to the virus. DeWine says his administration is in the process of hiring these public health workers at both the state and local level. The goal is to hire individuals who represent and reflect the make-up of their own communities.
5. DeWine says the state is directing $1 million in grants to specifically provide mental health and addiction services for hard-to-reach individuals throughout Ohio. The grants will allow faith-based and local community-based organizations to develop culturally appropriate messages, targeting those who may not be as easily reached by mass-media messaging efforts, such as racial/ethnic minorities, Appalachian/rural communities, older adults.
6. The state has created two new data dashboards that look at key factors associated with health and wellbeing so it can better determine vulnerable populations who need help. You can find them at coronavirus.ohio.gov
Last month, the DeWine administration formed the Minority Health Strike Force to develop several specific COVID-19 recommendations focused on how communities of color are more likely to have underlying health conditions, less access to healthcare, and discrimination when accessing healthcare services. The strike force's preliminary report is set to be released later on Thursday.