Colorado officials intend to declare racism a public health crisis, according to the Denver Post.
The decision follows weeks of pressure from employees within the state’s health department. Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment Executive Director Jill Hunsaker Ryan said she plans to take measures to increase minority hiring within the agency, where nearly 80% of employees are white.
That would reportedly start with an equity and inclusion officer for the department who could start next month. The agency also aims to make itself more amenable to community organizers and people of color wishing to partner with government workers.
The agency currently recognizes racism as “a persistent and critical health issue,” which several employees of color reportedly felt understated the situation.
Hunsaker Ryan blamed pandemic restriction on the pace at which her department reacted to the an internal call for change that’s been amplifying since June.
Despite Colorado’s Black communities accounting for only 3.92% of the state’s population, Black people reportedly account for 6.64% of the state’s COVID-19 deaths.
Latinos make up 21.69% of Colorado’s population, but count for 35.62% of the state’s COVID-19 cases and 22.23% of pandemic deaths,
The deaths of Black men Elijah McLain in Aurora, Co. and George Floyd in Minneapolis — both of whom died in police custody — also led to discussion about labeling racism a public health crisis, the Denver Post claimed.
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