New Jersey to Create COVID-19 Task Force Addressing Racial and Health Disparities

By: Olivia Armstrong, Follow South Jersey News Reporting Intern

Photo: Jon Bradley | Follow South Jersey

TRENTON, N.J. — On June 11, Governor Phil Murphy signed legislation that will lead to the creation of the Coronavirus Disease Pandemic Task Force on Racial and Health Disparities.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately impacted our minority communities and we must work together to eliminate the existing racial disparities in health care,” Gov. Murphy said in a release. “The revisions sent back to the Legislature further strengthen this bill and will bring together the perspectives and expertise necessary to achieve equity and meaningful healthcare reform.”

During this worldwide pandemic, the importance of racial and ethnic health care really showed. Racial minorities were disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, as the CDC reports that Hispanic or Latino community members are twice as likely to be infected by COVID-19 if they aren’t vaccinated. The ratio of COVID-19 cases in Black Americans is 1.1x higher than that in white people, and Native Americans get infected with COVID-19 at a rate 1.6x higher than white Americans.

“We should take the lessons of this tragedy and learn from them. Inequalities in care and treatment for communities of color and our most vulnerable populations are unacceptable, and establishing this task force is a positive step towards safeguarding all of our residents, regardless of race, ethnicity or geography, during the remainder of the COVID crisis, and in the days and years to come,” Senator Nellie Pou said in a statement.

“African-American and Latino mothers saw higher mortality rates,” Assemblywoman Shavonda Sumter added. “A disproportionate number of minority families lacked access to health insurance and care. Communities of color have been impacted by COVID-19 at an alarming rate. We need to understand how and why these disparities are happening, and what we can do to mitigate the harm this pandemic has caused.”

New Jersey’s task force on this matter will consist of members from the state’s Division of Civil Rights and Division of Consumer Affairs. It will aim to close the gap and stop some of the racial disparities seen not just during the COVID-19 pandemic, but in all healthcare.

This article was produced by a Follow South Jersey news intern thanks to a grant provided by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation through the New Jersey Health Initiatives program to create hyper-local news to meet the informational and health needs of the City of Bridgeton, N.J.