U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet has co-sponsored legislation that would establish a task force to respond to the disproportionate effects of COVID-19 on people of color documented in Colorado and nationwide.
“You can draw a straight line between the higher coronavirus infection and death rates among communities of color and the historic disparities they’ve faced in access to quality health care, housing, schools and other services,” Bennet said. “We have to confront directly and honestly the systemic inequalities that have led this virus to disproportionately hurt certain racial and ethnic groups in our country.”
The legislation, which U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., introduced, would mandate that the task force provide weekly recommendations to Congress and the Federal Emergency Management Agency for how to allocate protective equipment, tests and an eventual vaccine in an equitable manner. The task force would have 44 members, including multiple Cabinet secretaries, and would publish data regularly about the outcomes of COVID-19 patients of color while identifying hot spots of racial disparities.
The panel would examine the disbursement of congressional relief funds for imbalanced allocations based on race or ethnicity. Finally, it would perform an investigation that identifies the factors prior to the pandemic that contributed to the inequitable spread of COVID-19 as well missteps in the federal response. At the end of the pandemic, there would be a permanent task force to identify gaps in the healthcare system.
Early analysis of the racial effects of COVID-19 has noted higher rates of underlying health conditions in black and tribal communities, as well as substandard housing conditions among communities of color and greater employment in service jobs deemed essential. The lack of testing and inaccurate diagnosis may also have played a disproportionate role for nonwhite COVID-19 patients.
Gov. Jared Polis on Wednesday announced members of his Equity Task Force, who would be focusing on similar issues for the state:
- U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse
- Farduus Ahmed, Hope Communities
- Harry Budisidharta, Asian Pacific Development Center
- Lizeth Chacon, Colorado People's Alliance
- Eudelia Contreras, Lake County Build a Generation
- Maggie Gomez, Center for Health Progress
- Joline Dorce, Dawn Clinic
- Rudy Gonzales, Servicios de la Raza
- Reverend Amanda Henderson, Interfaith Alliance of Colorado
- Deidre Johnson, Center for African American Health
- Adrianne Maddux, Denver Indian Health and Family Services
- Denise Maes, ACLU Colorado
- Kenny Maestas, Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition
- Omar Montgomery, Center for Identity and Inclusion-University of Colorado Denver
- Priscilla Montoya Vitello, Latino Community Foundation
- Michelle McHenry-Edrington, Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition
- Rosemary McDonnell-Horita, Atlantis Community, Inc.
- Rosemary Lyttle, NAACP
- Ricardo Perez, Hispanic Affairs Project
- Alex Sánchez, Roaring Fork Latino Network and Voces Unidas
- Carmen Stevens, San Luis Valley Immigrant Rights Center
- Representative from the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe
- Representative from the Southern Ute Tribe