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Black caucus calls on governor to remedy racial disparities in Indiana virus cases

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Data from the Indiana State Department of Health shows black people in Indiana account for 10% of the population but make up nearly a quarter of the COVID-19 related deaths. Now, the Indiana Black Legislative Caucus is asking the governor to step in to help mitigate COVID-19’s impact in those communities.

Legislators said there are a lot of contributing factors for that and an executive order may be needed to remove them. The Indiana Black Legislative Caucus is looking to take action to minimize COVID-19’s impact in the black community.

“And a colorblind approach cannot bring about equity when both the health care system and the structural conditions that inform it are so unequal,” said state Rep. Robin Shackleford.

The IBLC was behind the push to get ISDH to release data showing COVID-19’s impact in minority communities. Now that the data is out, there’s more work to do.

“We have laid out eight recommendations, and we’re starting with a health disparity task force. This task force will address the COVID-19 racial disparities and draft a corrections action plan,” Shackleford said.

The first recommendation is to form a task force comprised partly of black health care providers, hospitals, health advocacy groups and others.

Some of the other recommendations include increasing funding for public health, anti-racism training for health workers, providing hazard pay and paid leave to essential workers and setting up triage and testing sites in black communities.

The IBLC said instead of waiting for a legislative session to make this happen, the governor could issue an executive order.

“This is not cutting edge; this is catch up. We want to look at other states in terms of best practices, for example, our next-door neighbors in Ohio,” said state Rep. Greg Porter.

The IBLC said focusing on some of the most impacted and vulnerable groups creates a pathway to health equity for all Hoosiers as we work to beat the pandemic.

“The more we can do to slow it down, the better it is for everybody,” said state Rep. Earl Harris Jr.

The hope is to eventually get the virus’s impact broken down by zip code to help determine where potential testing or triage centers would go.