LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) — Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist and the Michigan COVID-19 Racial Disparities Task Force released the group’s final report Tuesday.

The group was assembled in April 2020 to detail efforts to respond to COVID-19 racial disparities, improve access to healthcare in vulnerable communities and communities of color, and save lives.

“We responded to these disturbing racial disparities with an innovative approach that put Michiganders first and set a national example for other states and the federal government to follow,” Gilchrist said. “We outperformed the nation in addressing racial disparities, saved lives, and collaborated with other states to share what we learned.”

From 2020-2022, Michigan’s 14.2 deaths per 10,000 people net improvement outpaced the U.S. net improvement of 8.9 deaths per 10,000.

According to Gilchrist’s office, in 2020, Black Michiganders saw COVID-19 death rates of 22.8 per 10,000 people, significantly above the national death rate of 15 per 10,000 in 2020. COVID-19 death rates for Black Michiganders dropped to 16.2 per 10,000 in 2021 and 8.6 per 10,000 in 2022.

Nationwide, Black Americans’ COVID-19 death rates dropped from 15 per 10,000 in 2020 to 14.8 per 10,000 in 2021 and 6.1 per 10,000 in 2022. 

study by the Duke-Margolis Center for Health Policy and the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices found that the task force reduced health inequities by:

• Distributing six million free masks through the MI Mask Aid Initiative

• Administering more than 24,000 free COVID-19 tests in previously underserved communities across 21 neighborhood testing sites by establishing mobile testing infrastructure, drive-thru and walk-up testing

• Declaring racism a public health crisis through Executive Directive 2020-09

• Requiring implicit bias training for all state employees

• Increasing compliance with public health recommendations within Black communities, which may be attributed to targeted media campaigns for those communities

• Improving the quality of data reporting on racial disparities

• Funding 30 community organizations through the Rapid Response Initiative to address community needs associated with the disparate impacts the virus has had on communities of color

• Responding to social determinants of health by providing resources to quarantined individuals (e.g., food boxes, hygiene products, etc.), reducing housing insecurity through the Eviction Diversion Program, and expanding eligibility for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits for residents formerly convicted of drug felonies