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Is Racism a Public Health Crisis?

Officials in Louisville, where there have been continuing protests over the police killing of Breonna Taylor and where coronavirus cases have begun to rise, said the city might join a growing list of local governments that have declared racism a public health crisis. the New York Times reports.

Local officials in 19 states, including California, Connecticut, Georgia, Michigan, Texas and Wisconsin, have passed or are considering similar resolutions, says the American Public Health Association. “

We must have a new sense of urgency to make this declaration and do the hard work of dismantling racism and creating real transformation,” said Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer.

“I look forward to partnering with Council on this work of declaring racism as a public health emergency.”

A declaration could help establish funding priorities and lead to regular reports on how local government officials are addressing racial inequality, said T. Benicio Gonzales of the Center for Health Equity at the Louisville health department.

If racism is identified as a public health emergency, local lawmakers could say to the heads of  agencies, “What are you doing in order to address this important health issue?” Gonzales said.

At a hearing Wednesday, Kendall Boyd of the mayor’s office presented a report that found Black residents of the city were 2.6 times more likely to be arrested by the local police than white residents.

Taylor, a 26-year-old emergency room technician, was shot and killed March 13 by police officers who entered her home using a battering ram while executing a search warrant. The police said that they returned fire when Taylor’s boyfriend shot an officer in the leg. Seven Louisville defense lawyers not involved in the case say the officers should not be charged because they had a legal right to defend themselves once her boyfriend shot at them, the Louisville Courier-Journal reports.