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Gov. Edwards creates taskforce to track racial inequities in healthcare

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Posted at 7:20 AM, Apr 10, 2020

BATON ROUGE, La. - Governor John Bel Edwards held a press briefing Friday on the state's response to COVID-19.

He said Louisiana will try to combat the racial disparities in coronavirus deaths with a task force aimed at educating at-risk minority communities about the virus's risks.

The task force also will conduct long-term research about how to address underlying health gaps between blacks and whites in the state.

“We know that right now 70 percent of our deaths in Louisiana from coronavirus are African Americans. This is a disturbing trend and one that deserves our attention, which is why we are engaging a group of leaders right now while the crisis is still ongoing,” Gov. Edwards said. “When we talk about health equity, we mean everyone has the opportunity to attain their highest level of health. The great thing is that the findings and recommendations made by this Task Force will help everyone better access quality care and improve health outcomes. It will also leverage our research capabilities and intellectual brainpower in a collective manner to tackle this daunting issue. I am asking our universities and research institutions to lead this effort.”

Groups that will participate in the task force include:

  • Southern University’s Nelson Mandela School of Public Policy
  • Xavier University’s Department of Public Health Sciences
  • Health Science Centers at LSU and Tulane
  • LDH Office of Public Health
  • LDH Bureau of Minority Health Access
  • Pennington Biomedical Research Center
  • Schools of Nursing at all of Louisiana’s universities

The immediate assignment is to make sure communities with health disparities are blanketed with good information on COVID-19 safety and prevention; provide the medical community with best practices and protocols for treating communities with underlying medical conditions and health disparities; and ensure testing availability and ease of access for all communities. This Task Force will begin its work immediately and their research will result in the creation of a Dashboard on Health Equity.

Data released by the state health department this week showed the COVID-19 disease caused by the virus has disproportionately hit black residents in the state. African Americans account for one-third of Louisiana's population. But they represent more than 70% of the state's deaths from COVID-19.

As of noon on April 10, the Louisiana Department of Health reported 19,253 confirmed cases of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) in the state. This includes 970 additional cases than were reported yesterday. A total to 755 people who have died of the disease. This includes 53 additional deaths than were reported yesterday.

The Louisiana Department of Health updates their numbers each day at noon. For the latest from LDH, click here.

During his Thursday press conference, Edwards said there's "a really good chance" Louisiana schools will close for the rest of the school year. He said the answer will come relatively soon, but there was no mention of schools during Friday's briefing. The current closure is in place until April 30.

In several press conferences this week, the governor has also remarked on data trends that show that state mitigation measures to flatten the curve may be working. But Edwards stressed to Louisiana residents that these positive trends don't mean Louisiana is ready to return to normal. With Easter coming up, Edwards warned people not to let down their guard for family gatherings.

Watch Friday briefing below.