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Colorado leaders taking more steps to address racial disparities during COVID-19 pandemic

Earlier this month, Colorado started reporting race and ethnicity data.

DENVER — COVID-19 is disproportionally impacting Colorado’s Hispanic and Black communities, data shows.

The state has a new Health Equity Response Team looking to make sure that resources get to all communities.

“People of color are disproportionately likely to be exposed to the virus in low-paying “essential” jobs; are more likely to have limited access to affordable healthcare, childcare, and transportation; are more likely to live in neighborhoods with high air pollution rates; and are more likely to face unsanitary conditions in prisons, jails, and detention centers,” according to the state’s website

The website says the response team will work to:

  • Ensure racial and ethnicity COVID-19 data are accessible, transparent and used in decision-making,
  • Determine proactive measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in specific communities,
  • Work with state teams coordinating resources and logistics to help curb health disparities related to COVID-19,
  • Increase access to testing and care services,
  • Share time-sensitive information about how Colorado communities are experiencing particular challenges related to the COVID-19 response, and
  • Develop policy recommendations to better assist and prepare communities of color during the current COVID-19 pandemic as well as future state emergencies.

“It's also crucial to remember that no matter your race or your background, we are all in this together,” Polis said during a news conference on Wednesday.

RELATED: Polis: Colorado goes from 3,000 to 8,500 COVID-19 tests by the end of May

Earlier this month, Colorado started reporting race and ethnicity data that showed Hispanics account for 35% of all cases, though they make up less than 22% of Colorado’s population. African Americans made up 7.6% of cases and less than 4% of the population.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's website lists a few factors that influence the health of minority groups.

it says members of racial or ethnic minorities may be more likely to live in densely populated areas “because of institutional racism in the form of residential housing segregation” which makes it difficult to practice social distancing.

The CDC also shows minorities are overrepresented in low-paying essential industries and are thus more likely to be exposed to the virus. These particular groups face barriers to getting health care – like a lack of health insurance – which could make them especially vulnerable during an outbreak.

Democrats in the State House hosted a virtual town hall to provide what they say are immediate solutions.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado’s public policy director Denise Maes said minority groups should have free testing and treatment.

Advocates are also calling for more equal allocation of relief money to minorities as well as help with their rent.

“It's also essential that results are acknowledged,” Maes said. “Just collecting them and putting them in a box and not doing anything about it doesn't really help the communities affected.”

RELATED: Lack of PPE, testing aids spread of virus inside senior care facilities

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