DeWine announces steps to address racial disparities in COVID-19 impact

FILE - In this March 5, 2019 file photo, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine speaks during the Ohio State of the State address at the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus. (AP Photo/Paul Vernon, File)
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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Gov. Mike DeWine said the state will begin tracking racial disparities among victims of the coronavirus more closely, and making the results available on the state's COVID-19 website.

Ohio is also hiring as many as 1,800 local and state public health workers to help notify Ohioans of possible exposure to the virus, the governor said.

The pandemic is disproportionately affecting minorities in Ohio as it is elsewhere, state records show. African Americans make up 17% of COVID-19 deaths, 26% of all cases and 31% of hospitalizations, although they make up only about 13% of Ohioans.

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A new position at the Ohio Department of Health will be created, DeWine said, called the Deputy Director of Social Determinants of Health and Opportunity.

The position will be responsible for focusing on community conditions that affect health, well-being and economic vitality and lead the state's response to social determinants of health and disparity.

"A primary focus will be on collecting the best data to inform the best practices to lead our strategy moving forward," DeWine said. "Further, a key function will be to help ensure the implementation of the Minority Strike Force’s short-term and long-term recommendations."

The governor said the state will also be partnering with the the Ohio Association of Community Health Centers and Nationwide Foundation to distribute Community Wellness Kits, which are aimed to help protect families in communities disproportionately affected by COVID-19.

The kits include items like face coverings, hand sanitizer and soap.

“We have an obligation to be even more mindful in our response to helping those at higher risk,” DeWine said. “It should not matter where you live or what race you are.”

DeWine said the state formed the Minority Health Strike Force in April 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."

DeWine said they would be releasing that preliminary report soon.

Coronavirus: What you need to know

There are now 34,639 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ohio; 2,117 people have died from the virus and 6,264 were hospitalized, according to the Ohio Department of Health. Breakdown of Ohio cases by county >>

For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up in a couple of weeks. Older adults and people with existing health problems are at higher risk of more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death.

10TV is committed to bringing you a FACTS NOT FEAR approach to our coronavirus reporting. You can count on 10TV to give you the latest developments and the impacts on you and your family. For complete coverage, visit: 10TV.com/coronavirus.

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