IN Focus: Myers, IBLC discuss COVID-19’s impact on African-Americans

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — The Indiana Black Legislative Caucus said the state needs to do more to protect black Hoosiers.

According to the state’s website, Indiana’s black population is roughly 10% and the latest statistics show nearly 18% of COVID-19 Hoosier patients are African American.

Out of all the COVID-19 related deaths in Indiana, 20.9% were black hoosiers.

“There are many reasons attributing to these numbers including, but not limited to, a lack of quality healthcare access, a lack of health insurance, prior chronic health conditions,” said IBLC Chair Robin Shackleford.

The caucus also listed other factors – like systematic racism, poverty, food and pharmacy desserts, lack of transportation to testing and a greater chance of a black person being an essential worker at this time.

“We have laid out eight recommendations and we are starting with a health disparity task force,” said Shackleford.

The Indiana Black Legislative Caucus is asking to have members on this team and to have a plan in place by June 30.

Some of the other recommendations include testing and triage centers placed in black neighborhoods, resources to purchase medication they may need and more racial data on all major chronic illnesses.

“We’ve already had health disparities before with these chronic illnesses but now in a time that we are in a severe health crisis I think the government will be more apt to say maybe we do need more funding for public health, maybe we do need to start collecting racial data at all times,” said Shackleford.

The current COVID-19 racial data in Indiana isn’t exact, 19.2 percent of COVID-19 cases are marked as an unknown race.

“This is real data this is real life and we can’t continue to go down that road with blinders on each side of our eyes that these issues are not important to our communities,” said State Rep. Greg Porter.

Former State Health Commissioner and Democratic candidate for Indiana Governor Dr. Woody Myers said other states are doing better at addressing this problem.

“Illinois, New York, and California are the ones I’ve looked to as leaders and those that have approached this more directly,” said Myers. “I am just disheartened that we haven’t put more energy and effort into these problems.”

There’s no exact cost estimate for these suggestions.

The IBLC said some costs could be measured because similar proposals have been presented in the recent past. They were denied then, but IBLC said there is a better chance now.

“These are abnormal times,” said Rep. Porter.

We are still waiting to see if the state will create the task force and follow the IBLC’s suggestions.

State Health Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box said the state is working to bring testing to some of these underserved communities however, she did not touch on some of the other requests during the press conference.

We will continue covering this issue as more information becomes available.

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