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State attacks COVID’s minority grip

National Guard returns to area; report outlines best testing strategy

WARREN — The Army National Guard is coming back to the area next week to conduct tests for COVID-19, according to Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine.

DeWine said the Guard will be in Youngstown on Wednesday and in Warren on Aug. 21.

More details about the location and time in Warren have not yet been released, but the tests in Youngstown are expected to be given 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday at Metro Assembly of God, 2530 South Ave.

No preregistration is required for the free tests, and people do not have to be symptomatic in order to be tested. Masks must be worn.

HEALTH INIQUITY

The National Guard started conducting pop-up site testing after the governor’s COVID-19 Minority Health Strike Force issued a report in May stating the “importance of testing access in communities of color and other high-risk areas.”

DeWine announced Thursday during his regular briefing that the strike force completed a final report with 34 recommendations to help eliminate iniquities in minority health outcomes — a longstanding problem in the state highlighted when data showed COVID-19 infections disproportionately impact minority populations.

Although black people represent 14 percent of Ohio’s population, 24 percent of positive COVID-19 cases, 32 percent of COVID-19 hospitalizations and 19 percent of COVID-19 deaths are attributed to black Ohioans. Similarly, at least 6 percent of those who have tested positive for COVID-19 in Ohio are Latino, despite only representing 3.9 percent of Ohio’s population, according to DeWine.

“The events of past months present a unique opportunity to shine the spotlight on the challenges faced by Ohioans of color and propel policy action toward change,” the strike force’s report states. “There is an urgency to move swiftly, strategically, and with strong leadership, building on past work, reports and community input from many organizations and members who shared their perspectives through testimony, correspondence, and conversations.

“Racism, other forms of discrimination, and the iniquities they create are well documented as drivers of health disparities and poor overall health and well-being in communities of color. Health disparities are avoidable differences in health outcomes among groups.”

DeWine said the report “puts in writing things we can do to change things for the better,” and elements of the report will be implemented throughout the duration of his time in office.

“We can do better; we will do better,” DeWine said.

DeWine also announced a new, permanent equity advisory council made up of Ohioans who will advise DeWine and his cabinet to develop policies that keep equity in mind, to make a “more just society.”

DeWine called racism a public health crisis and said, sadly, racism — whether subtle or overt — still exists in Ohio today and must come to an end.

Iniquities don’t just exist in health, but in other parts of society, too, DeWine said.

Black children are more likely to “languish” in foster care for longer periods of time, and more black mothers and babies die after childbirth than white women and babies.

The report calls for more complex data to better understand the health disparities, and for the dismantling of racism in the state so the health disparities can be eliminated for good, not just in COVID-19 cases.

The report calls for efforts to increase the presence of black people in the health care industry.

“The state of Ohio should support the recruitment and retention of an equitable representation of Ohioans of color in health care and public health professions in all established workforce development programs. This could include providing academic and financial support, connecting with health and career preparation programs, professional experiences, and mentoring opportunities for high school, college, or post-baccalaureate students,” the report states.

The state also should do more to help people sign up for health insurance, integrate behavioral health into the primary health care model, increase access to safe and affordable housing and improve access to public transportation, the report states.

The report offers numerous other recommendations and an explanation of how both existing racist policies and historical racism has led to an inequitable society. The 34-page report can be read at https://coronavirus.ohio. gov/static/MHSF/MHSF-Blueprint.pdf.

SPORTS

More information related to high school sports is expected to be released Tuesday, DeWine said.

He indicated spectators would be limited and that parents and schools would have most of the control. During the briefing, Dr. Curt Daniels, a cardiology specialist who works with athletes, spoke about the effects of COVID-19 on the heart. By conducting testing on athletes at Ohio State University, Daniels saw effects on the heart in 10 to 13 percent of athletes who tested positive for COVID-19. Testing shows it is an issue in about 20 percent of the general population who have had the virus, Daniels said.

Daniels recommends anyone who has tested positive for the virus to go through a clearance process before actively returning to exercise or athletic competitions.

The virus can cause inflammation around the heart, which can be a cause of sudden death in athletes, he said. But the warning doesn’t only apply to athletes — it applies to anyone who exercises regularly.

The inflammation sometimes gives no symptoms, but in some cases it can cause shortness of breath, chest pain, dizziness, fainting or death, he said.

Symptoms, age and activity are factors physicians will consider when clearing a patient, Daniels said. He recommends returning to physical activity slowly after recovering from the virus.

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