The novel coronavirus has caused the U.S. to use many of its resources to address the economic fallout brought on by the public health crisis. The viral outbreak has heightened the urgent need to address long-standing inequities in our healthcare system. Now California Sen. Kamala Harris announced on Thursday that she intends to bring forth new legislation to create a special task force to address and combat racial disparities brought on due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Harris has introduced the COVID-19 Racial and Ethnic Disparities Task Force Act to bring together healthcare and other policy experts, community-based organizations, and federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial leaders to confront the racial and ethnic disparities of the coronavirus pandemic head-on.
The bill would require the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to establish an interagency task force of policy experts, community leaders, and government officials to make data-driven recommendations to federal agencies about directing crucial resources—like testing kits, testing supplies, and personal protective equipment (PPE)—to communities with racial and ethnic disparities in COVID-19 infection, hospitalization and death rates. The task force’s work would also be able to guide a more equitable government response to the COVID-19 pandemic and future public health crises.
“People of color are being infected and dying from coronavirus at astounding rates,” said Sen. Harris in a press statement. “This is in part due to persistent lack of access to healthcare, bias in our healthcare system, systematic barriers to equal pay and housing, and environmental injustice. It is critical that the federal government proactively work to right historical wrongs that have led to racial inequities for generations. The COVID-19 Racial and Ethnic Disparities Task Force Act is a necessary step to fully understand the impact of this virus in the hardest hit communities, and make targeted investments that correspond with their unique needs.”