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County ramping up efforts to curb COVID-19 in African-American communities

Posted at 10:11 PM, Apr 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-10 23:11:49-04

MILWAUKEE COUNTY — Leaders in Milwaukee County are ramping up their efforts to try to stop the coronavirus from disproportionately affecting the African-American community.

Village of Brown Deer President Wanda Montgomery is experiencing the impact first hand.

"It's almost every day I see a name that rise up, and I'm like, 'oh my God, I know that person,'" Montgomery said.

As of Friday evening, 732 of Milwaukee County's 1,634 coronavirus cases were African-American, as well as 50 of the county's 75 deaths.

"Two in three of our deaths are African-American, while less than one in three of our county population is African-American," said Dr. Ben Weston, the medical director of Milwaukee County Emergency Management.

Officials and activists say the virus's impact highlights decades of systemic racism, such as lack of access to health care and the inability to work from home.

"We're going to see continual growth of this within our community, and it's not because they're being irresponsible, they're not socially distancing," said Reggie Jackson of America's Black Holocaust Museum. "It's because the circumstances don't allow them to work in a space that's safe."

The county received a $500,000 grant from the Medical College of Wisconsin to work specifically on targeted public health messaging within vulnerable communities.

Ascension Health added 13 respiratory care sites, including one at St. Joseph's Hospital on Milwaukee's north side. These sites are for patients who need clinical care but don't need to go to the emergency room.

"If there are concerns within the African-American community, know that we can schedule them appointments at the St. Joseph campus," said Dr. Patricia Golden.

"If each one of us plays our part, I think we can get through this with the help of each other," Montgomery said.

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