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Rep. Emilia Sykes: DeWine’s steps to address the COVID-19 impact on blacks are 'too little, too late'

Across the nation, blacks are dying from coronavirus at a disproportionate rate: 2.5 times the rate of whites.

AKRON, Ohio — “I worry that it’s just too little, too late,” said Ohio House Minority Leader Emilia Strong Sykes (D-Akron).

That’s Ohio House Minority Leader Emilia Strong Sykes delivering strong words to Governor Mike DeWine about his efforts to address the COVID-19 impact on the black community.

Across the nation, blacks are dying from coronavirus at a disproportionate rate: 2.5 times the rate of whites, according to APM Research Lab.

In Ohio, blacks make up 14 percent of the population. Yet, blacks account for 31 percent of all COVID-19 hospitalizations.

Credit: WKYC

“As governor of the state of Ohio, I'm deeply concerned about this,” said Gov. DeWine. “This is something that should concern every single Ohioan.”

On Thursday, Governor DeWine announced initial findings from his Minority Health Task Force, that called for data-driven awareness efforts and more testing of minorities.

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Rep. Sykes said the governor waited too long to save lives.

“We heard the announcement about the messaging campaign. You know it's kind of hard to start a message campaign two months into something, and shift, so we missed the boat on that one,” said Rep. Sykes.

So far, only 10 percent of black Ohioans have been tested, yet they make up 27 percent of the state’s COVID-19 cases.

Credit: WKYC

“We have little idea of who are the people infected and who are the people we need to isolate, so we don’t see the community spread. And, we can’t get that information until we do more testing. I’m hoping that [testing] ramps up the way we were told. Apparently the capacity is there but it’s not getting to the people,” said Rep. Sykes. “People are literally dying because these health disparities continue to exist.”

So why do health disparities exist?

“Unless we can afford it, we don’t get the same medical care as whites get,” said Kevin Harris, of Trumbull County.

Kevin Harris, one of Ohio’s first COVID-19 patients, says there are a lot of factors.

Credit: Kevin Harris / Facebook

“Whether it’s our diet or the fact that we like to congregate together and be with family more so, we tend to get each other sicker,” said Harris. “There are three things that we deal with: logistics, economy and medical care.”

Racial disparities won’t change overnight.

But Harris says they can improve if we continue having the conversation.

“We’re all in this boat together; black, white, and brown. We just got to put the information out there and hope people listen, said Harris.

If you want to get a COVID-19 test at Cleveland Clinic, UH or MetroHealth, you must have a doctor’s note.

However, if you don’t have a doctor’s note, you can still get a COVID-19 test for free at four Rite Aid pharmacies in Ohio, three of which are in Northeast Ohio:

  • Rite Aid: 5795 State Road, Parma,OH
  • Rite Aid: 4053 South Main Street, Akron, OH
  • Rite Aid: 713 North State Street, Girard, OH
  • Rite Aid: 7225 Airport Highway, Holland, OH

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