Area Health Officials to Track Virus Impact on Minorities

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Mahoning County and city health officials will provide the state with racial breakdown of residents who have tested positive for the coronavirus after Gov. Mike DeWine on Monday formed a panel to investigate the disproportionate impact on minority groups.

DeWine created the Minority Health Strike Force after state statistics show 21% of Ohioans with COVID-19 are from black communities, despite their accounting for 14% of the population. 

Youngstown Mayor Jamael Tito Brown will serve on the strike team, which is led by Youngstown native Ursel McElroy, director of Ohio Department of Aging, and Alisha Nelson, director of RecoveryOhio.

During Tuesday’s briefing with DeWine, McElroy said the group will help raise the level of awareness to the disparity and ramp up efforts to address it. The team will focus on underlying health conditions, social determinants of health that can widen gaps across communities, and other economic issues, she said.

“The team will also address the unfortunate expressions of hate and discrimination during this crisis,” she said.

Through its efforts, the team will put “tangible steps” in place, including education, stronger data collection and recommended policy changes or new policies when needed.

Those disparities, at this time, aren’t reflected in Mahoning County or in Youngstown. According to Census statistics from 2018, Mahoning County has a population of 231,857, of which 80% are white and 15.2% are black.

Ryan Tekac, Mahoning County Public Health Commissioner, reports 84% of positive COVID-19 cases are among whites while 4% are among black residents, as well as 6% unknown and another 6% other.

Of the 64,955 Youngstown residents, black individuals make up 42% of the population, while 49% are white. 

Erin Bishop, director Youngstown Health Department, says 27% of COVID-19 cases among Youngstown residents are from the black population, while 55% of the cases are among whites. Seven percent were unknown and 14% other.

Tekac says it’s an honor to have two representatives connected to Youngstown on the strike team.

Bishop says Mayor Brown is honored to be on the committee and she praised him for leading this crisis efforts since the beginning.

“He will be able to have a voice to make sure our needs are met and what the state needs to do,” she said. 

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.