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Readout of the Fourth Covid-19 Health Equity Task Force Meeting

On Friday, May 28, COVID-19 Health Equity Chair Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, convened the fourth COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force to discuss the Biden-Harris Administration’s actions to mitigate the health inequities caused or exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and to prevent such inequities in the future. This meeting specifically addressed the impact of discrimination and xenophobia on health, including during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr. Nunez-Smith opened the meeting with remarks on the importance of addressing COVID-19 and other health inequities at the structural level. “A long history of racialized and targeted policies and practices in this country -- in housing, nutrition, education, healthcare, policing, immigration, and employment -- has functioned to marginalize too many, systematically limiting access to opportunity. That history remains all too present in the current COVID-19 landscape-- communities of color have been over-represented in COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations, and deaths--- and under-represented in access to life-saving therapies and vaccinations. The imperative is clear—we must name and urgently address these realities."

The Surgeon General of the United States, Dr. Vivek Murthy, continued the conversation with Dr. Nunez-Smith to address the link between COVID-19 and the systemic racism and xenophobia that racial minorities have been facing during the pandemic and long before. The conversation centered on both the experience of the pandemic and the concrete steps that we should as individuals and as a society to create a more connected community.

During the meeting, Task Force members heard presentations and discussed how discrimination and xenophobia put minoritized, marginalized and medically underserved communities at risk, including during the pandemic. Task Force members considered ways in which agencies and state, local, tribal, and territorial (SLTT) officials can best respond to and mitigate against xenophobia and discrimination in the United States.

Task Force Members discussed and voted favorably on short-term, as well as long-term interim recommendations focused on:

  • Developing and disseminating new resources and training for state, tribal, territorial and local law enforcement and first responders on how to identify pandemic-related hate- or bias-motivated incidents.
  • Improving the current hate crime data infrastructure by creating a coordination mechanism on hate crime data collection, standardization and publication.
  • Incentivizing and promoting research to understand healthcare discrimination and developing better methods of quantifying healthcare discrimination.
  • Collaborating with state, tribal, territorial, and local law enforcement partners to implement best practices for reporting pandemic-related hate- or bias-related incidents.
  • Mandating large-scale, rigorous research on the prevalence, patterns, causes, and long-term implications of COVID-19 related discrimination, ensuring disaggregated data is prioritized to capture the diversity of minoritized communities.
  • Creating best practices for a national narrative, including terminology and rhetoric used by media and politicians, around the portrayal of minoritized populations, immigrants, refugees, and asylees as it relates to the COVID-19 pandemic.

To watch the full recording of the fourth COVID-19 Health Task Force Meeting, please use the following links:

- Part 1:
- Part 2:
- Part 3:

The next COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force meeting is tentatively scheduled for Friday, June 25. Stay up-to-date by subscribing to e-mail updates.

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Content created by Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health (OASH)
Content last reviewed