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Colorado will declare racism a public health crisis

Staffers at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment urged the declaration after the coronavirus pandemic exposed heightened inequality in health, treatment

DENVER, CO - JUNE 7: Denver Public School Board Member, Angela Cobián speaks to a large crowd of protesters in front of the Martin Luther King Jr Memorial in City Park during a Black Lives Matter demonstration to emphasize the need for more black educators in schools in Denver, June 7, 2020. (Kevin Mohatt, Special to The Colorado Sun)

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.

MORE: Why now? The roots (and possible future) of Colorado’s reckoning with racism past and present

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.

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