Official: Colorado to declare racism a public health crisis

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A participant holds a placard Sunday, May 31, 2020, during a protest outside the State Capitol in Denver over the death of George Floyd who died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers on May 25. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

DENVER  |  At the urging of Department of Public Health and Environment employees, Colorado will join other state and local governments in declaring racism a public health crisis.

The pending declaration addresses diversity inside the department as well as the coronavirus’ disproportionate impact on people of color, The Denver Post reported Friday. It comes amid the ongoing national reckoning over race following the death of George Floyd, a Black man, at the hands of police in Minneapolis.

Department employees had sought the declaration since June, the Post reported. Executive Director Jill Hunsaker Ryan said the state will join other state and local governments, including Jefferson County, in declaring racism a health crisis.

Black and Latino residents comprise nearly 5% and 36%, respectively, of COVID-19 cases in Colorado, and nearly 7% and 22%, respectively, of virus-related deaths. Blacks comprise just nearly 4% of the state’s population; Latinos, 22%, the health department says.

The department’s roughly 1,554 employees include 64 Black and 149 Latino employees.