Executive order directs efforts to address COVID-19 racial disparity in North Carolina
Published 10:09 pm Thursday, June 4, 2020
Gov. Roy Cooper on Thursday unveiled a state commission and other initiatives to address socioeconomic and health disparities for African Americans and Latinos in North Carolina underscored since the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Through an executive order, Cooper announced the formation of a task force led by state Administration Secretary Machelle Sanders, a Belhaven native. It could work up to two years to collect information and identify solutions to health access issues, economic opportunities for minority-owned business, education and environmental justice.
Black residents are 22% of North Carolina’s population, but they have accounted for 30% of positive COVID-19 cases where the individual’s race is known and 34% of the deaths, according to Cooper’s office. There’s a starker disparity in the overall Hispanic population and percentage of cases involving community members, the governor said.
“These statistics are alarming and they’re not acceptable,” Cooper said at a media briefing. “This virus is exploiting these inequalities. It’s up to us to do something about it.”
Sanders said the task force “must look to provide alternative solutions to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 and other economic, health and equity issues on vulnerable populations.”
The order also directs several state agencies to work toward equity in the distribution of COVID-19 recovery funds and virus testing and health care. The order also tells emergency workers to focus on streamlining food distribution and for National Guard members to provide logistical support for the testing of food processing workers and migrant farm workers.
The task force is named in memory of Andrea Harris, a longtime advocate for North Carolina minority business development who died two weeks ago.