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Local health director calls systemic racism a public health emergency


In a letter to the community Friday, Columbia/Boone County Public Health and Human Services Director Stephanie Browning called systemic racism a public health emergency.

"Systemic racism disproportionately affects the stress and burden of illness experienced by Black, Indigenous, Latinx and other people of color," Browning wrote. "These minority groups are more likely to experience higher rates of diabetes, heart disease and obesity."

Browning said the health disparities are apparent during the COVID-19 pandemic across the country.

"In Boone County we are also seeing this trend," Browning said. "As of June 4, 28.4% of our COVID-19 cases were Black individuals, despite making up only 9% of our county population."

The letter also condemned racism, saying that the health department "stands against the hatred, racism and violence that is inflicted on our communities of color."

Browning said that the department will continue to advocate for policy change.

"Our work is not done until everyone is safe, everyone has their basic needs met, everyone is healthy, and everyone has access to achieve their full potential," she said.

The letter went on to remind residents that COVID-19 is still a concern in the community amid ongoing protests.

"It’s important to remember that the risk of COVID-19 is still prevalent within our community and we want to protect the residents participating in these activities," Browning said. "People should not have to choose between their demands for justice and their health."

The department provided some ways people can try to keep the virus from spreading:

  • Stay home if you're sick
  • Maintain six feet of distance from other people
  • Wear a mask if you can't keep distance because shouting generates more droplets
  • Avoid touch objects others have touched
  • Frequently use hand sanitizer
  • Monitor for COVID-19 symptoms if participating in protests
  • Minimize contact with others if you feel you may have been exposed to the virus

According to the health department's website, symptoms for COVID-19 can include fever, cough and breathing trouble.

Boone / Coronavirus / Health / News / Top Stories

Katie Greathouse

Katie Greathouse is the assistant news director for ABC 17 News.


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