'Heart of the community:' Milwaukee Co. officials declare commitment to racial equity and health

MILWAUKEE -- Milwaukee County officials signed an ordinance Wednesday afternoon, April 29, declaring their commitment to achieving racial equity and health.

Bashir Easter

Part of the ordinance aims to provide all residents with quality health care and positive health outcomes. This comes as the African-American community continues to be disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.

"The disparity in these numbers during this crisis is the starkest illustration, and most tragic you could ask for of conditions that have lasted for decades, and decades and decades," said Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele.

Early on, the numbers were clear. As confirmed cases of the virus in Milwaukee County were climbing, along with the number of deaths, one group was -- and still is -- being impacted the most.

"It needs to be a targeted effort to get the community to understand, this disease is impacting us at a higher number," said Bashir Easter, program manager with the UW All of Us program.

COVID-19 continues to disproportionately impact African-American communities.

All of Us is a national research program with the goal of creating the largest health database in history, and to improve the future of personalized care.

"COVID-19 really highlighted some of the existing issues going on in the African-American and Latino communities," Easter said. "These are individuals that some of us actually know."

Tarakee Jackson

"They're not just numbers, they're people," Tarakee Jackson, UW All of Us program manager, said. "The distribution of services, as well as medications, is not equal in the African American community."

Jackson said this is one of the reasons COVID-19 is having a devastating effect on African-American communities.

"During these times is where we really need to reach out and be humble and ask for that assistance," said Jackson.

On Milwaukee's north side, COVID-19 testing is available now -- like drive-up testing at Ascension St. Joseph Hospital and at Milwaukee Health Services, Inc. (MHSI) on MLK Drive.

Ascension St. Joseph

"This is right in the heart of the community," Easter said.

At MHSI, testing is available by appointment only; to schedule a COVID-19 testing appointment at MHSI, call 414-372-8080. For more information or assistance from UW All of Us, email allofusuwmke@hslc.wisc.edu or call 414-219-3810 and select "Option 1".