Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer is recommending the city’s Metro Council declare racism a public health emergency.

Two members of Fischer’s administration made the case to the council Wednesday in light of the coronavirus pandemic and the civil unrest over the police killings of George Floyd and Louisville’s own Breonna Taylor.

“Identifying and working to eliminate structural racism has been a priority for me and my team for over a decade, but there’s much more to be done,” Fischer said in a statement.

“Now, as we see people in our streets and in streets across the nation demanding fundamental change, we must have a new sense of urgency to make this declaration and do the hard work of dismantling racism and creating real transformation.”

The ways in which people of color face racism and concentrated poverty, with poorer educational and workplace opportunities, directly contribute to their health outcomes, Kendall Boyd, Louisville’s chief equity officer, argued to the council.

The coronavirus has highlighted how those dynamics impact health, experts have said. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found in June that Americans of color have been disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus.

T. Benicio Gonzales, the director of the Center for Health Equity, identified what the city describes as 11 root causes of poor health outcomes, including employment and income gaps; poor transportation options; and inadequate access to “quality” groceries.

It remains to be seen what a declaration would bring and whether it would be anything more than a symbolic gesture.

Three black councilwomen endorsed the declaration, but one of those lawmakers, Councilwoman Keisha Dorsey, said it would have to come with concrete resources to fight “this health crisis like we would any other health crisis.”

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