This article is a part of an ongoing series that examines Equity During COVID-19 in early childhood and how this crisis impacts young children and families of color disproportionately in health, education, and geography across North Carolina. An introduction to the series can be found here.
North Carolina, like states across the country, continues to see COVID-19 disproportionately affecting Black and Hispanic communities. Because of systemic inequities in access to healthcare, education, wealth, nutrition and housing, the portion of cases and deaths among people of color is higher than the portion they represent of the population. The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) and Governor Roy Cooper have announced a concerted effort to reach historically marginalized communities across the state that are impacted by the virus because of structural racism.
On June 4, Governor Cooper signed Executive Order 143 establishing the Andrea Harris Social, Economic, Environmental and Health Equity Task Force “to create economic stability, eliminate health disparities and achieve environmental justice in North Carolina.” According to the Governor’s announcement, the taskforce will be inclusive and representative of the state’s demographics, focusing on areas such as: access to healthcare for underserved communities; enhanced patient engagement in healthcare settings; economic opportunities in business development and employment; environmental justice and inclusion; and creating educational opportunities for communities of color.
NCDHHS also launched a messaging campaign to reach Black and Hispanic populations with COVID-19 information by partnering with key influencers who represent the communities hardest hit by the virus. On June 26, NCDHHS gave grants to five local North Carolina organizations to help address the impact of COVID-19 among the state’s Hispanic communities through prevention practices; access to testing; engagement with contact tracers; participation in quarantine and isolation measures; and coordination with NCDHHS messaging around these efforts. Black and Hispanics are more likely than white North Carolinians to work in essential fields, such as childcare, where social distancing is not possible, increasing their risk of exposure to the virus.
Contact tracing identifies people that have recently been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 and the state has hired a higher percentage of bilingual, Black and Hispanic tracers to reach the communities hardest hit by the virus.
As of June 29, according to the NC DHHS COVID-19 Data Dashboard, Black and African Americans, who make up 22 percent of the state population, account for 25 percent of confirmed COVID-19 cases and 33 percent of deaths due to the virus. Hispanic individuals, who make up 10 percent of the state population, account for 46 percent of confirmed cases and nine percent of the deaths.