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Wisconsin Part of Higher Numbers of COVID-19 Cases in Black Communities

In Milwaukee County, black residents make up more than 40 of the area's nearly 60 COVID-19 deaths reported so far. (Adobe Stock)
In Milwaukee County, black residents make up more than 40 of the area's nearly 60 COVID-19 deaths reported so far. (Adobe Stock)
April 9, 2020

MILWAUKEE -- In a handful of states, including Wisconsin, racial data is being used as part of tracking of COVID-19 cases.

The information shows the pandemic is ravaging black communities in places such as Milwaukee.

Health officials say black residents make up almost half of the nearly 1,500 cases so far in Milwaukee County, and more than 70% of all deaths related to the virus.

Patricia McManus, president of the Black Health Coalition of Wisconsin, says it reflects years of neglect by local and state health officials when it comes to outreach and resources. She says with the pandemic, the information African-Americans do receive isn't always helpful.

"For example, call your private physician," McManus states. "Now, I can guarantee you that well over 50%, 60% of the people in my community do not have a private physician."

McManus says the lack of proper outreach is harmful since many people living in black communities struggle with chronic health issues.

Local health officials say they're trying to be more transparent and responsive to these concerns, pointing to the inclusion of racial data in the pandemic reporting.

Last year, both the city and county passed resolutions declaring racism as a public health crisis and the need to address racial bias in decision making.

But McManus says efforts to educate communities about virus prevention need to have a more direct and thoughtful approach because residents have felt left behind for far too long.

"It's important for them to have people who they really trust, and right now there's very little trust in this community around, especially, elected officials," she stresses.

On a national scale, advocates are calling on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to include racial information when reporting cases. They say that will provide a clearer picture of where inequities exist in combating the spread of the virus.

Mike Moen, Public News Service - WI