State’s top health official: Pervasive injustices must be addressed

State Health and Human Service Secretary Mandy Cohen

State Health and Human Service Secretary Mandy Cohen took a brief departure from her coronavirus briefing Monday to invoke the name of George Floyd.

“I can’t say anything else, without first saying his name. George Floyd is now one of far too many who have lost their lives,” explained Cohen.

“Pervasive injustices have been hardened into our system over centuries. Too often people of color pay for these longstanding inequities with their lives.”

Dr. Cohen acknowledged that structural racism has resulted in poor outcomes in educational attainment, criminal justice and health for many minorities.

While African Americans make up 22 percent of the state’s population, they account for 34 percent of the state’s COVID-19 fatalities.

Sec. Cohen said Monday she supports the need to peacefully protest. She also pledged to use her place of privilege to do better in addressing social and health disparities.

The department is prioritizing working with minority-owned businesses or vendors who retain a diverse workforce as it looks to build on its testing capacity and contact tracing.

“We want those partners to focus on their testing and tracing work in historically-marginalized communities.”

As of Monday afternoon, North Carolina had recorded 29,262 cases of COVID-19 and 898 deaths. African Americans represent 293 of those deaths.

Click below to hear an excerpt of Sec. Cohen’s remarks.


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