A new bill proposed by Democrat lawmakers would declare racism as a nationwide public health crisis, The Hill reports.
The proposed law, "The Anti-Racism in Public Health Act," was put forward by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., along with Reps. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., and Barbara Lee, D-Calif.
The trio’s plan would create two new wings housed under the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, the "National Center for Anti-Racism" and the "Law Enforcement Violence Prevention Program."
"It is time we start treating structural racism like we would treat any other public health problem or disease: investing in research into its symptoms and causes and finding ways to mitigate its effects," Warren said in a statement about the proposal. "My bill with Representatives Lee and Pressley is a first step to create anti-racist federal health policy that studies and addresses disparities in health outcomes at their roots."
Both Reps. Pressley and Lee said that the coronavirus pandemic has made the public health inequities in communities of color even worse.
Black and Latino Americans are both way more likely to contract and die from COVID-19 than white Americans, according to researchers.
According to an August report from the National Urban League that used data from Johns Hopkins University, Black Americans are more than two times likely to die from COVID-19 than white or Latino Americans. Latino Americans have the highest infection rate — 73 cases per 10,000 people — out of the three demographics, but the report indicates that Black Americans still are nearly three times as likely to get sick from the virus than white Americans, who have the lowest infection rate.
The CDC has also recognized the difference in infection rates between people of different races on its website. The agency posted "[l]ong-standing systemic health and social inequities have put many people from racial and ethnic minority groups at increased risk of getting sick and dying from COVID-19."
The bill comes on the heels of the American Public Health Association, or APHA, declaring systemic racism a public health crisis at the beginning of June after the police-involved shooting of George Floyd, a Black man.
Several states, including Michigan, Wisconsin and Colorado, along with municipalities in 19 states, have also moved to label system racism as a public health crisis, The Hill reports.