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Montgomery County Council declares racism a 'public health crisis'

The resolution was passed in the wake of protests and unrest following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

ROCKVILLE, Md. — The Montgomery County Council unanimously passed a resolution on Tuesday morning calling racism a "public health crisis."

The resolution, which was spearheaded by Councilmember Will Jawando, was passed in the wake of protests and unrest following the death of George Floyd at the hands of a police officer in Minneapolis.

Jawando stated that racism has resulted in "inequitable outcomes in many areas of life" and that current research indicates that "racism itself is a social determinant of health."

RELATED: 'A systemic problem requires a systemic solution' | Montgomery County Council introduces resolution calling racism a public health crisis

"Disparities in health outcomes have been amplified during the COVID-19 pandemic, as African Americans have the highest number of recorded cases and deaths," Montgomery County Council said in a release. 

According to the national COVID-19 Racial Data Tracker, African Americans are twice as likely to die of COVID-19 than would be expected, based on their share of the population.

In the state of Maryland and in Montgomery County specifically, African Americans account for 25% of the state's deaths, despite being 19% of the county’s population.

During last Tuesday's council session, councilmembers called the resolution a "first step" in addressing the root problem of racism in the community and the nation as a whole.

In a letter to the council's chiefs of staff, Jawando writes, "The resolution is tied to the social construct of race and how it affects our society. There is a biological basis to distinguish racial groups; instead, they see race as a social, cultural, and/or political construct wherein racism has real consequences on health and health disparities."

Disparities, he said, have been amplified by the coronavirus pandemic, which has hit Montgomery County particularly hard. The county has the second-highest number of cases in Maryland.

During last Tuesday's discussion, Jawando talked candidly about police violence and the deaths of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, whose murder sparked outrage, protests, and calls for change across the country.

"It's long past time we focus on the direct link to these deaths: Racism," Jowando said. 

The resolution calls on the council to "commit to becoming an equity and social justice-oriented organization" and will "further work to solidify alliances and partnerships with other organizations that are confronting racism and encourage other local, state, regional and national entities to recognize racism as a public health crisis," among other actions.

RELATED: Montgomery County enters Phase 2 of reopening starting this Friday

RELATED: Racist graffiti spray-painted on a campus building at Bethesda's Walt Whitman High School

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