Black mayors in many of the nation’s largest cities on Tuesday formally called on governors to repeal orders prohibiting them from enacting strategies that reduce the spread of COVID-19.
The African American Mayors Association passed a resolution beseeching state leaders to repeal any rules that prohibit local leaders from implementing strategies like requiring the use of face masks.
“State, local and tribal governments are uniquely positioned to determine the level of mitigation required to combat the virus in their communities,” the resolution states.
“The African American Mayors Association deems coordination amongst state and local jurisdictions to be vital to effectively addressing the public health crisis.”
The move comes on the heels of a lawsuit by Gov. Brian Kemp against Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms for requiring masks.
Kemp and some other governors around the country argue that only the head of the state can set health policies to fight against the worldwide novel coronavirus pandemic, even as the rates of infections soar.
“As the Mayor of the City of Atlanta, Mayor Bottoms does not have the legal authority to modify, change or ignore Governor Kemp’s executive orders,” the complaint notes.
Mayors Bottoms, Muriel Bowser of Washington, D.C., and Sylvester Turner of Houston are among those who signed on to the resolution.
Communities of color are the hardest hit by the pandemic with Black and Latino populations reporting the highest levels of infections. The COVID Racial Data Tracker, a joint project of the Antiracist Research & Policy Center and the COVID Tracking Project, reported in May that black people are dying at 2.5 times the rate of white people. They also account for 23% of COVID-19 deaths where race is known.
Latino people have a hospitalization rate approximately 4 times that of non-Hispanic white persons, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported as of June 25. Meanwhile, non-Hispanic American Indian or Alaska Native persons have a rate approximately 5 times that of non-Hispanic white persons.
The center’s research notes that “long-standing systemic health and social inequities have put some members of racial and ethnic minority groups at increased risk of getting COVID-19 or experiencing severe illness, regardless of age.”
That is true even in cities where people of color make up a small fraction of the overall population. For instance, in San Francisco, Latinos account for 15% of the population but make up nearly half of all COVID-19 cases, the Los Angeles Times reported on Tuesday.
“It shouldn’t be this way,” Mayor McKinley Price of Newport News, Va., and president of the African American Mayors Association, said in a statement.
“In passing this resolution, Black mayors — from cities of all sizes — are sending a clear message to governors: mayors must have the ability to implement public health strategies that keep their constituents safe,” McKinley added.