The MEETING THE MOMENT FOR PUBLIC HEALTH award recognizes an organization or group that has been instrumental in preparing first responders to meet the challenges of combating COVID-19. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately impacted communities of color in Michigan. African Americans represent nearly 14% of the state’s population, yet they represent 40% of the deaths from coronavirus. The task force was created per Executive Order 2020-55 and will act in an advisory capacity to Governor Whitmer. The goal is to study the causes of racial disparities and recommend actions to address the historical and systemic inequities.

The task force will suggest ways to:

  • Increase transparency in reporting data regarding the racial and ethnic impact of COVID-19.
  • Remove barriers to accessing physical and mental health care.
  • Reduce the impact of medical bias in testing and treatment.
  • Mitigate environmental and infrastructure factors contributing to increased exposure during pandemics resulting in mortality.
  • Develop and improve systems for supporting long-term economic recovery and physical and mental health care following a pandemic. 

The task force will collaborate with community action stakeholders as well as identify avenues of funding for combatting racial disparities. The task force will continue its work until 90 days after the termination of the declared states of emergency and disaster, or such other time as identified by the Governor.

Lieutenant Governor Gilchrist and the leaders on the Michigan COVID-19 Task Force on Racial Disparities have sought to reduce the number of cases, hospitalizations, and deaths in communities of color by expanding testing and providing crucial support to community organizations.

Officials report that the average number of new COVID cases reported per million residents per day for Black Michiganders dropped from 176 in March and April to 59 in September and October. Perhaps more significantly, during that same time period, the number of “probable” COVID deaths recorded per million Black Michiganders per day reportedly decreased from 21.7 to 1.

About the Lieutenant Governor 

Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist has dedicated his career to solving problems. An engineer by training, he uses thoughtful innovation, progressive reform, and efficient modernization of policies and programs to make the work better for hardworking families. From spearheading campaigns for equality and justice to harnessing technology to solve real problems, his focus has consistently remained on serving the public and getting things done.

He brings a lifetime of experience to the task, receiving his first computer at age five and setting up a computer lab in a Detroit community recreation center using computers that he built himself at age 16. Lt. Governor Gilchrist studied computer engineering and computer science at the University of Michigan, graduating with honors, and later had a successful career as a software engineer at Microsoft, helping to build SharePoint into the fastest growing product in the company’s history.

Lt. Governor Gilchrist spent the next several years of his career as a social entrepreneur and community organizer who helped people in communities across America realize their full economic and political potential. Upon returning home to Detroit, Lt. Governor Gilchrist worked in local government to make sure build systems that made the government more responsive, transparent, and accountable to city residents. This experience prepared him for a key priority: to bring Michigan’s state government fully into the 21st century on every level.

As part of the Whitmer Administration, Lt. Governor Gilchrist has sought to address injustice and inequity across our state at every level. From co-chairing the Michigan Joint Task Force on Jail and Pretrial Incarceration to helming the Coronavirus Task Force on Racial Disparities, these task forces have taken actions that saved lives and protect our most vulnerable populations. Lt. Governor Gilchrist’s approach to addressing these disparities is deeply rooted in fact-based practices, science, and connecting with individuals across Michigan.

Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist and his wife, Ellen, reside in Detroit where they are raising their twins, Emily and Garlin III, and daughter, Ruby.

Michigan COVID-19 Task Force on Racial Disparities- 2021 Meeting the Moment for Public Health Award