Pontiac mayor, state rep want race of COVID-19 cases reported
Pontiac — Pontiac Mayor Deidre Waterman and state Rep. Tyrone Carter called Thursday for mandatory reporting of race among people testing positive for coronavirus in southeast Michigan.
Both elected officials are African Americans and expressed concern about a disproportionate number of cases among black residents. Carter himself tested positive for coronavirus last month.
Waterman, a physician, said “education and information” to the public is vital to fight the virus.
State health numbers indicate that black residents, while making up about 14% percent of Michigan’s population, represent about one-third of all infections and 40% of the deaths, Carter said. There have been 21,504 total coronavirus cases and 1,026 deaths of all races, as of Thursday afternoon. Carter believes the number of reports involving African-Americans is conservative.
“Once this is over, the numbers will rise higher, and it will be the African American community leading the way,” Carter predicted during a teleconference call with reporters.
Waterman said her city, the county seat, is a “hotbed” of coronavirus cases. The Oakland County COVID-19 dashboard reports Pontiac, with a population of about 60,000, has recorded 351 cases and 17 deaths, or about 58.5 positive cases per 10,000 residents.
As of Thursday afternoon, Oakland County’s 1.2 million residents had reported 4,250 total cases and 246 deaths. Of the total number of Oakland County cases, 23.9% are black; 19.5% white; 3.2% multiple races; 3.6% other, and 48% — nearly half of the total — are unknown.
Oakland County authorities noted some of those tested have declined to enter their race in medical reports. County Executive David Coulter said he understands the concerns of those inside and outside communities with large African American populations.
“It is vital to have racial data during this pandemic to help understand the breadth of COVID-19 and which communities it is impacting, especially since we know health disparities by race are well-established,” Coulter said.
“Because racial data is not always collected by labs or for other reasons, Oakland County Health Division is taking proactive steps to revisit each case lacking racial data to try to build a more complete picture.”