LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Mayor Greg Fischer reiterated his commitment to improving the health of all Louisvillians, an issue that has been thrust into the forefront by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
During a Zoom Town Hall on Tuesday, Mayor Fischer discussed the problem and talked about the many things Louisville Metro Government is doing about it. The town hall included key members of his administration who have been working to correct the social, racial, economic, and health inequities in Louisville.
“We are seeing unacceptable disparities in how hard COVID-19 is hitting our African American community versus our community as a whole. Cities around the country are also seeing this disparity,” Mayor Fischer said.
Of the 154 deaths Louisville has suffered due to the pandemic, 32 percent have been African American residents, who make up only 23 percent of the population, according data presented by the Mayor.
Fischer also noted that such disparities have long been a problem in Louisville. One particularly troubling disparity is the life expectancy that can vary by more than a decade depending on which Louisville ZIP code people grow up in.
“This is not an issue that just manifested itself with COVID-19, either. Disproportionality in health outcomes in communities of color, in African American communities, have plagued this country for centuries,” Mayor Fischer said.
Kendall Boyd, director of the Louisville Human Relations Commission, said COVID-19 was “the perfect storm” hitting African Americans who are already disproportionality afflicted by chronic health conditions like high blood pressure, asthma, HIV, and diabetes, all of which have been linked to a higher risk of dying from COVID-19.
He also noted that many African Americans work in “frontline jobs” that don’t allow for teleworking and social distancing.
T. Gonzales, director of the Center for Health Equity, said Louisville has an obligation to ensure that African Americans and other minority groups do not come out of the COVID-19 pandemic in even worse shape than before.
“For our present-day reality, nobody here is responsible for all of how racial inequity got started, but we are left with the results presently today,” Gonzales said. “So that means everybody has to take responsibility for that. For making sure we can have not just an equitable recovery, but a racially equitable recovery.”
Mayor Fischer said the COVID-19 crisis puts into sharp relief the problems of health, racial, and income inequity in Louisville, which his administration has been trying to tackle since taking office in 2011.
“How can we help people live longer, higher-quality lives?” the Mayor said. “We’ve got to be able to identify where there are obstacles, where those gaps are in our society, so we can go to work on those issues.”
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