According to a recent report
by the Washtenaw County Health Department, the COVID-19 death rate has been lower in Washtenaw County than in any other Michigan county since the beginning of the pandemic.
The report, which examined data from March 1, 2020 to February 25, 2023, found that a total of 642 Washtenaw County residents died of COVID-19. 46% of those deaths were in people aged 80 or older.
Jimena Loveluck, Washtenaw County Health Department health officer, says it’s difficult to attribute the county’s lower death rates to any one factor. However, she notes that "we're considered a very healthy county, and certainly also a wealthier county," and that "wealth and health are connected."
But Loveluck also says "it's really important to recognize that we have a lot of economic and health inequities in our county as well."
The mortality report notes a racial disparity among deaths in the county. In 2020, Black residents were almost twice as likely to die from COVID as their white counterparts, but by 2022, deaths among Black residents had substantially decreased.
According to Loveluck, "overall, not only did we see a lower death rate across multiple racial, ethnic, and age groups, we were able to specifically see a decrease in the disparity over that period between deaths in African-American residents and white residents."
Loveluck attributes the county’s success to cooperation and prioritization.
"By partnering with many organizations, community partners, faith leaders, our health care partners, we really focused on an equity strategy that provided resources and outreach and trusted messengers to ensure that … the populations where we were seeing disparate outcomes were really prioritized in our response," she says.
"While there are many factors that contributed to a lower death rate in our county, our collective actions saved lives, and it's important to recognize that and celebrate it," Loveluck says.
Natalia Holtzman is a freelance writer based in Ann Arbor. Her work has appeared in publications such as the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the Los Angeles Review of Books, Literary Hub, The Millions, and others.
Photo by Doug Coombe.
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