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African American Leaders to Governor: Reconsider Reopening

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Northam’s chief diversity officer, Dr. Janice Underwood, said Monday that the Health Equity Task Force is meeting twice daily, in part to ensure vulnerable communities are supported during the crisis. (Screenshot: VPM News)

A group of African American community leaders in Virginia is demanding Gov. Ralph Northam reconsider an expected reopening of Virginia’s economy this Friday. They say reopening now will put communities of color, in particular, at risk of getting sick. 

The group of Virginia residents, African American community members, scholars, caregivers, and professionals said in a letter to Northam they’re deeply concerned about the impact the COVID-19 crisis has had on their communities. 

Mariah Williams, who is director of policy and research at the non-profit Housing Opportunities Made Equal, initiated the letter. 

“When you look at who comprises low wage, hourly jobs, they are overwhelmingly comprised of people of color who are essentially being asked to remain on the front lines of this pandemic,” Williams said. 

She also pointed out that those communities are less likely to have adequate healthcare.  

“Beyond the numbers, there are families being changed,” Williams said. “ There is a collective trauma happening.”

The group has asked the governor to center his plans for reopening on racial equity, ensure front-line workers have enough personal protective equipment and release the names of people who have died from coronavirus so they can be honored. 

Northam’s chief diversity officer, Dr. Janice Underwood, said Monday that the Health Equity Task Force is meeting twice daily, in part to ensure vulnerable communities are supported during the crisis.