Bloomington and Richfield leaders this month committed to prioritizing racial equity in their city’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We wanted to make sure our residents know we are putting extra focus and emphasis on addressing the inequities that have been playing out,” said Richfield Mayor Maria Regan Gonzalez.
The Edina City Council plans to act on a similar resolution in June.
COVID-19 infection and mortality data are showing a disproportionate impact on people of color. Statewide, blacks make up about 7% of the population, but so far make up 22% of Minnesotans confirmed to be infected and 5% of those who have died of the virus.
Of the confirmed cases reported in Bloomington through Thursday, 19% were African-Americans. Just 8.8% of the city’s population is black.
“This is an important topic ... one that I’m proud we are able to step to the forefront of as a community,” said Bloomington Mayor Tim Busse.
The proclamations specify that the two cities will support the medical and social needs of marginalized residents during the pandemic and share “examples of how centering their needs can ensure that we are all safe and healthy.”
The cities also aim to provide health care education and resource information to communities of color and stand against xenophobic attacks against Asian-Americans.
In Richfield, efforts are being made to provide several modes of city communication in multiple languages, and city staffers are tailoring assistance programs to fit the needs of renters and small businesses.
The inequities exposed by COVID-19 are nothing new to Minnesota communities, said Gonzalez, but she hopes the pandemic will lead to more conversations about how health can be affected by socioeconomic status, race and housing.
“We as mayors might not think of ourselves as leaders working on health and public health, but with COVID-19, you can see we are on the front lines,” she said.
Richfield City Council Member Ben Whalen said the pandemic is “laying bare and exacerbating” inequities for people of color and low-wage workers.
“This is not just Richfield’s problem, but we’re also not immune from it,” he said.
Council Member Simon Trautmann said the city’s commitment would go beyond helping the groups hit hardest by COVID-19.
“When we focus on equity, we don’t just help folks at the margins, we help our whole community,” he said.