As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to plague the country, it has had a disproportionate impact on some of our most vulnerable communities. Shortly after COVID-19 was first identified in the United States, disparities in testing, cases, hospitalizations, and mortality began to emerge.
These inequities were quickly evident by race, ethnicity, geography, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, and other factors.
To help ensure an equitable response to the pandemic, the President signed an executive order on January 21 creating a task force to address COVID-19 related health and social inequities. This Task Force is chaired by Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith.
Individuals selected by the President are:
- Mayra Alvarez of San Diego, CA
- James Hildreth of Nashville, TN
- Andrew Imparato of Sacramento, CA
- Victor Joseph of Tanana, AK
- Joneigh Khaldun of Lansing, MI
- Octavio Martinez of New Braunfels, TX
- Tim Putnam of Batesville, IN
- Vincent Toranzo of Pembroke Pines, FL
- Mary Turner of Plymouth, MN
- Homer Venters of Port Washington, NY*
- Bobby Watts of Goodlettsville, TN
- Haeyoung Yoon of New York, NY*
*Two New Yorkers
The twelve Task Force members represent a diversity of backgrounds and expertise, a range of racial and ethnic groups, and a number of important populations, including: children and youth; educators and students; health care providers, immigrants; individuals with disabilities; LGBTQ+ individuals; public health experts; rural communities; state, local, territorial, and Tribal governments; and unions.
As Chair, Dr. Nunez-Smith will also ask six additional Federal agencies to be represented on the COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force as federal members.
This includes the United States Department of Agriculture, Department of Education, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department of Justice, and Department of Labor.
The Task Force is charged with issuing a range of recommendations to help inform the COVID-19 response and recovery.
This includes recommendations on the equitable allocation of COVID-19 resources and relief funds, effective outreach and communication to underserved and minority populations, and improving cultural proficiency within the Federal Government.
Additional recommendations include efforts to improve data collection and use, as well as a long-term plan to address data shortfalls regarding communities of color and other underserved populations.
The Task Force’s work will conclude after issuing a final report to the COVID-19 Response Coordinator describing the drivers of observed COVID-19 inequities, the potential for ongoing disparities faced by COVID-19 survivors, and actions to ensure that future pandemic responses do not ignore or exacerbate health inequities.
Photo credit: Biden and Harris.