By Bria Brown

Bay City, MI (WNEM) – State leaders are crediting the Michigan COVID-19 Task Force on Racial Disparities with helping lower the percentage of African Americans who contracted the virus.

“I have lost 24 people in my life to COVID-19,” Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist said.

Gilchrist is not the only person who has lost people to the virus.

“We lost five African American men from our church,” said Pastor Kiemba Knowlin, of Jackson Memorial Temple Church of God in Christ.

The impact of COVID-19 in minority communities led to the creation of Michigan COVID-19 Task Force on Racial Disparities six months ago. The task force is credited with helping to identify and lower the number of black people and communities of color disproportionately affected.

Dr. Debra Furr-Holden, an epidemiologist and member of the coronavirus task force, said the average cases and deaths for African Americans dropped tremendously in September and October compared to March and April.

“At the height of the pandemic, we were, African Americans were roughly 32 percent of cases, and 41 percent of deaths,” Furr-Holden said.

There was an increase in testing sites and information made available to communities of color, especially in cities like Flint.

“Flint was one of the cities that was really hard hit by COVID. We’ve learned a lot from what’s been happening at the state and what we do in our local task force,” Furr-Holden said.

The task force’s report shows more than 24,000 tests have been administered in underserved communities across 21 neighborhood sites.

Knowlin said it is helping to inform and protect the people of his city.

“We better understand testing. We better understand how to deal with this virus,” Knowlin said. “A lot more information is available is now than it was in March and April.”

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