In a newsletter this week, Columbus City Council president Shannon Hardin had a prediction: “Coronavirus may not discriminate, but underlying health and economic disparities mean that the impacts of COVID-19 will hit neighborhoods like the Near East Side and Southfield the hardest.”
Hardin echoes statements from national and state officials that while anyone can contract the virus, the implications differ widely by race.
In Columbus, African American residents made up 25% of confirmed COVID-19 cases, which is consistent with their representation in the population at large.
But they account for 35% of those hospitalized by the virus, according to statistics released Friday by the Ohio Department of Health.
“Much of this can be attributed to the pre-existing health issues that impact the marginalized communities,” Hardin says. “And not just pre-existing health conditions but also the quality of health care that they had before we even got to the virus.”
Hardin says all city policies need to take those disparities into account.
“When we’re talking about racism and reversing some of the structural issues of the past, they were not created overnight and they certainly won’t be fixed overnight," Hardin says. "So we need to continue to lean in.”
To that end, Columbus Public Health launched a new initiative Friday to address disparities in health care and recovery from coronavirus in the African American community, specifically. The new Center For Public Health Innovation will develop recommendations for Mayor Andrew Ginther on chronic diseases, infant mortality, HIV and AIDS, and hospitalizations.
Columbus Public Health also plans to release a weekly report detailing coronavirus cases in the city, with data on gender, race, age, hospitalizations and zip codes.
Hardin asserts, though, that the solution can’t end on a government level.
“We have to do the big things, the macro things around policies around health disparities," Hardin says. "But we also need to do the micro things of just understanding we are intertwined and interconnected."