Milwaukee leaders seek solutions as COVID-19 continues to hit African-American community hard

MILWAUKEE -- New numbers show the coronavirus is disproportionately affecting the African-American community. Now it's about figuring out a way to help.

Milwaukee County leader said in a briefing Friday, April 10 that the pandemic brings light problems that the African-American community has been dealing with for years.

"Almost a year ago, we declared racism as a health crisis. At that time, we never knew we would be facing a pandemic," said Nicole Brookshire, director of the Milwaukee County Office on African American affairs.

Access to healthcare, education and transportation are just some of the limitations that can put many people in higher-risk situations -- like working in the service industry.

"These are things that are a pattern of disinvestment in the African-American community over a period of many many decades, the loss of high-quality jobs that now force people to work service sector jobs," Reggie Jackson, president of America's Black Holocaust Museum, said.

While African-Americans make up a quarter of Milwaukee County's population, the latest data show that the population makes up two-thirds of the deaths related to COVID-19.

"You shouldn't have to go way out to the suburbs to get high-quality health care. You should be able to access that in the city," Milwaukee Health Commissioner Jeanette Kowalik said.

Medical College of Wisconsin

An idea for the solution -- funding. The Medical College of Wisconsin announced $4.8 million in funding to boost efforts that are trying to stop the spread in highly-affected areas.

County officials said they have plans in the works to help with the disparity and focus on vulnerable communities.

"We know it's going to be a long process, but again, we cannot make this a solution that is equitable without community voice," Brookshire said.

Not only is the coronavirus showing disparity, county leaders worry that it could make it worse in many ways if more action is not taken.