Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced Thursday the creation of a task force that will recommend ways to address racial disparities in the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Whitmer noted that, as of today, over 40% of deaths caused by COVID-19 in Michigan have been among African Americans, despite the group making up only 14% of the state’s population.

“This virus is holding a mirror up to our society and reminding us of the deep inequities in this country,” Whitmer said. “From basic lack of access to health care, transportation, and protections in the workplace, these inequities hit people of color and vulnerable communities the hardest.”

Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist, the state’s first African American lieutenant governor, will chair the task force, which will hold its first meeting this week.

The task force will consist of state government leaders and healthcare professionals from communities most impacted by the pandemic, Whitmer’s office said.

Whitmer said she hopes the task force can create change that lasts past the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It shouldn’t take a global pandemic for us to address these problems,” Whitmer said. “We’re going to come out of this, but we must also learn some hard lessons about the deep problems in our economy that we need real, meaningful solutions on.”

There were 755 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Genesee County as of Thursday afternoon, and 48 people in the county have died from the virus.

Statewide, there have been 21,504 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 1,076 deaths from the virus.

The first two presumptive-positive cases of COVID-19 in Michigan were confirmed on March 10. Whitmer declared a state of emergency the same day and has since issued executive orders closing schools and nonessential businesses.

Andrew Roth is a reporter and photographer covering politics and policy in Michigan, as well technology, culture and their convergence. Andrew is a journalism student at Michigan State University and first...