Ohio's Coronavirus Minority Strike Force Team Unveils First Recommendations

Cincinnati Vice Mayor Christopher Smitherman is part of the Minority Strike Force Team formed to correct inequalities in the coronavirus pandemic and the state's response.
Cincinnati Vice Mayor Christopher Smitherman is part of the Minority Strike Force Team formed to correct inequalities in the coronavirus pandemic and Ohio's response. [Screenshot / Facebook]

Cincinnati Vice Mayor Christopher Smitherman, a member of Ohio's Minority Strike Force team assembled during the COVID-19 pandemic, joined Gov. Mike DeWine's Thursday coronavirus briefing to reveal the first steps the team is taking to combat inequalities in the state's response.

The recommendations fall into four areas: messaging, testing, accessibility and collaboration, or "M-TAC," as Smitherman called it.

"We've all been working incredibly hard," Smitherman said.

That translates to working with media outlets and organizations like the Urban League and the NAACP throughout Ohio to get information about masking and testing availability out to underserved communities.

Smitherman said he was particularly pleased DeWine is providing funding to back up the strike force recommendations.

"Oftentimes, when commissions and strike forces are put together, the financial piece doesn't come behind it," Smitherman said. "I know that with this governor, that whatever the recommendations are, that the financial support will be there."

DeWine has come under fire for not releasing recommendations and guidelines specifically for minorities, who have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic, fast enough.

 

Thursday’s list and update are just the beginning, DeWine stressed, and the strike force will release its final recommendations in June.

The governor was, however, able to announce a partnership with the Ohio Association of Community Health Centers (OACHC) and the Nationwide Foundation to distribute thousands of Community Wellness Kits in more than 60 of Ohio's 88 counties.

Placed in the most economically depressed communities in the state, the units will "penetrate to our citizens who are not getting the health care they need," DeWine said, distributing wellness kits containing such items as face coverings, hand sanitizers and soap.

The Ohio Department of Health (ODH) is hiring someone dedicated to "the social determinants of health and opportunity," DeWine said, whose job it will be to respond and expand upon efforts to solve inequity.

"This is a position in the department of health that, frankly, we have thought about for a long time, and it's time. It's past time, frankly, to get this done," he said.

DeWine said the new position and the recommendations of the task force will last beyond the pandemic, "for as long as I am governor."

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