Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf and other regional leaders announced Friday that they’ve formed an emergency task force to address what they say are the racialized impacts of the coronavirus and create state legislation to reduce health disparities for people of color.
Schaaf said the COVID-19 Racial Disparities Task Force will respond to what she said are disparate impacts of the virus among people of color, particularly blacks, Latino, Asian and Native American residents, including those experiencing poverty, immigrants, elderly people and people with disabilities.
Among the strategies the task force will pursue are developing a “COVID-19 Vulnerability Index” measure to inform decisions to target communities most at risk for prevention and treatment investments and collecting and reviewing demographic data to inform targeted equity strategies.
The task force also will promote health check-ins to high-risk populations to identify health issues early and facilitate access to further care if it’s needed.
In addition, it will make interventions to reduce health risk factors for new coronavirus hospitalizations and deaths, such as medically supportive food, that lower the incidence and severity of common underlying chronic health conditions.
The task force will operate under the auspices of the Oakland Thrives Leadership Council, a public-private collective impact council jointly led by Kaiser Permanente, the city of Oakland, the Oakland Unified School District and Alameda County.
The four co-chairs of the task force are Schaaf, Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan, Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Oakland, and Dr. Tony Iton, the senior vice president for the California Endowment. Among the other members of the task force are Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson, and Jane Garcia, the chief executive officer of La Clinica de la Raza.
“The virus does not discriminate, but it does devastate some races more than others,” Schaaf said in a statement.
“We must take this unprecedented pandemic to create an unprecedented justice for people of color and vulnerable residents. The goal of our task force is to elevate the reality of racial disparities in health care and do everything we can to fix them right now for the long term,” she said.
Bonta said, “Through this task force and the coalition we have built to address these issues, I am hopeful we can push for robust policy changes to reduce and remove health disparities for impacted communities in California.”
The task force will announce a virtual hearing within two weeks to receive input on its work.