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For Immediate Release
Contact: Susan Ringler-Cerniglia
Washtenaw County Health Department
Data highlights disparities within the county
Due to the number of confirmed cases in the county, Washtenaw County Health Department is now able to share COVID-19 data broken down by zip code and race. The information is available on the Health Department’s website and will be updated daily.
The newly published data shows COVID-19 is present in every local zip code, but also highlights disparities within the county.
“We know viruses do not discriminate based on location, race, ethnicity, or national origin,” says Jimena Loveluck, MSW, Health Officer with the Washtenaw County Health Department. “However, viruses like COVID-19 can highlight health disparities that are deeply rooted in our society.”
Forty-four percent of confirmed cases as of April 2, 2020 at 12:00 p.m. are residents of the 48198 and 48197 zip codes in Ypsilanti and Ypsilanti Township. Twenty-nine percent of Washtenaw County’s population lives in these zip codes. Out of the 112 Washtenaw County residents who have been hospitalized due to COVID-19, 48 percent are African American. Twelve percent of Washtenaw County’s population identifies as African American or Black. Similar disparities have also been seen in Michigan and elsewhere in the United States.
Due to structural and environmental racism, African Americans are more likely to have underlying health conditions like heart disease, asthma, and diabetes, and are less likely to have access to healthcare in both Washtenaw County and across the country. These factors may be able to explain some, but not all of the disparate effects coronavirus is having on our African American communities.
Additional societal and economic factors may also be putting people of color and low-income individuals in our community at greater risk of infection. Across the country, Black and Latino workers are more likely to work in lower-wage service, production, and transportation jobs, compared to White workers. It is more difficult to tele-work or take time off from these professions. People in lower-income communities also tend to live closer together, increasing the potential for spread.
The Washtenaw County Health Department has been working with communities that face some of the largest health disparities, including multiple groups in Ypsilanti and Ypsilanti Township, for several years to identify and address inequities. The Health Department continues to work with community leaders from these groups to address inequities playing out in real time during this outbreak.
People of every race, economic status, and age are at risk for coronavirus and should continue taking every precaution to help slow the spread of illness. Staying home whenever possible, as well as maintaining at least six feet between people, washing your hands, and avoiding touching your face when you must be out, continue to be the best ways to slow the spread of illness. Check in on your loved ones and neighbors who are most at risk and see how they are doing. If they require an essential errand, see how you can help.
“We recognize that not everyone has the same ability to stay home,” says Loveluck. “Farmworkers who grow the food we eat, and service and transportation workers who make it possible for us to get this food continue to work every day. People who don’t have the resources or transportation to get necessities are also suffering.”
We must continue to push for policies that address the inequities that this pandemic has brought to light, including paid time off and access to health insurance. Discrimination and disparities are unjust and put us all at greater risk.
The Washtenaw County Health Department has been working to get prevention messages out to all segments of our community and ensure access to basic needs. We are looking at how our public transportation system can implement social distancing measures, and working to ensure access to health insurance, food, and safe temporary housing. The Health Department also issued emergency orders requiring screening and social distancing at critical infrastructure businesses and childcare centers to keep service workers healthy and safe.
Individuals in need of essential resources can view Washtenaw County Office of Community and Economic Development’s list of community services or call 2-1-1. United Way of Washtenaw County has established the COVID-19 Relief Fund to help nonprofits and groups ensure people and families in need can access food, housing, health care, financial resources and other supports. You can visit their website to apply or donate. Mutual aid networks have also been created locally to provide support to community members.
Washtenaw County Health DepartmentThe Washtenaw County Health Department promotes health and works to prevent disease and injury in our community. Our mission is to assure, in partnership with the community, the conditions necessary for people to live healthy lives through prevention and protection programs.
The Washtenaw County Health Department has achieved national accreditation through the Public Health Accreditation Board. Visit us at washtenaw.org/health or call 734-544-6700.