Cooper: Coronavirus’ Racial Disparities in NC ‘Unacceptable’

Graphic via Tania Lili.

By Sarah Ovaska

June 4, 2020

N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper announced his plan Thursday to address existing health disparities for Black and Latinx residents. 

North Carolina needs to begin dismantling the systemic inequities that have harmed and disadvantaged Black and Latinx residents, Gov. Roy Cooper said Thursday. 

“Today, we’re taking steps to help reverse the impacts of long-standing inequality made worse by this pandemic,” Cooper said. 

The executive order he signed Thursday is a response to widespread protests against police brutality and systematic racism after George Floyd was killed when detained by police in Minneapolis. It primarily focuses on health and economic solutions, and Cooper said he would be speaking about changes to the criminal justice system in the coming days. 

“I know that those marching and protesting right now are lifting up their voices for more than just health disparities,” Cooper said. “We hear you. And there’s more to come” 

COVID-19 Harming Black, Latinx Communities  

North Carolina has seen 31,966 known COVID-19 cases, and 939 people have died, according to data released Thursday by the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services. Though about one in 10 people in the state identify as Latinx, 40% of North Carolina’s cases have been reported in Latinx residents. Black North Carolinians make up 35% of all deaths, despite representing 22% of North Carolina’s overall population.

“These statistics are alarming, and they are not acceptable,” Cooper said. 

Cooper’s order on Thursday created the Andrea Harris Social, Economic, Environmental, and Health Equity Task Force, named after the longtime civil rights advocate who founded the N.C. Institute of Minority Economic Development. Harris died last month. 

The group will study and present recommendations on how to address existing health disparities. 

“Health inequities are a result of more than individual choices or random occurrence,” said Machelle Sanders, the NC Department of Administration Secretary. “They are the result of ongoing interplay of inequitable structures, policies and norms that shape lives.” 

NC Department of Administration Secretary Machelle Sanders

Cooper’s order also:

·      Calls on the N.C. Pandemic Recovery Office to distribute relief funds equitably.

·      Directs the state health department to ensure all communities have access to COVID-19 testing and treatments.

·      Enlists the Historically Underutilized Business Program to work with minority-owned businesses to access economic recovery funds. 

·      Allows the N.C. National Guard to assist with mass testing at food processing plants and farms. 

·      Calls on the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality to integrate environmental justice considerations into its existing policies and programs. 

More details are available here.

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