US slow to address racial health disparities involving COVID-19, Washington Post finds 

Policymakers and public health experts nationwide failed to identify racial health disparities as a crucial risk factor for COVID-19 early on in the pandemic, according to The Washington Post.

The publication interviewed nearly 60 public health experts, lawmakers and community leaders about their response to the pandemic in late March. Most leaders were focused on risk factors like international travel, age and chronic health conditions, and few states were publicly tracking race-related data about the virus, the Post found.

Many of the first COVID-19 testing sites also opened in whiter, more affluent areas. Very few of the education campaigns launched by local governments targeted black communities. In some cases, these governments allegedly ignored requests from community activists and black leaders to implement measures to help protect black communities, according to the Post.

Many leaders and public health experts were not aware the virus was disproportionately affecting black Americans due to inadequate data and reporting processes. State and federal officials told the Post that a lack of available tests and the "unprecedented nature of the virus" complicated pandemic response efforts. 

"I cannot say we specifically had race in mind," Garlin Gilchrist II, lieutenant governor of Michigan, told the Post.

Michigan created a task force to boost testing access in black communities in late April. By that time, Mr. Gilchrist knew 16 people who died of COVID-19, most of whom were black. 

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