Coronavirus News: New York City leaders call for change on racial disparity in COVID-19 deaths

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- New York City leaders are coming together to call for change as the coronavirus is sickening and killing far more minorities.

The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown the long-standing racial divide in the health of Americans into stark relief.

Black and Latino Americans are dying from the novel coronavirus at much higher rates in NYC and other hard-hit cities in the country.

New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams says the time for studying the issue has passed.

"No more studying," Williams said. "We know exactly what happened. We need funding, and we need a way to address it."

Williams joined Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and church leaders from across the city to demand the formation of a task force with the power to fix the problem and 50 million dollars for houses of worship to address issues in the hardest hit communities -- especially in neighborhoods where pre-existing, high-risk conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure and asthma are prevalent.

"This is the membership of many of our faith-based institution, and we need to empower them more to deal with this crisis we are facing," Adams said.

Bishop Gerald Seabrooks, of the United Clergy Coaltion, said in every borough, the key pivotal service is the church.

"So we must be seen as, guess what, an essential service," Seabrooks said.

Adams did applaud Mayor Bill de Blasio's newly-announced media plan to target 88 high-impact zip codes in 15 languages, and to employ stepped-up grassroots efforts like robocalls, text messages and flyers.

Still, some clergy members say local leaders should have addressed disparities long before COVID-19.

"This should not have been a surprise to anybody, because those of us who have been working on our clergy networks for years knew of these disparities," Bronx Reverend Ray Rivera said.

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