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Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer Weighed In On Why So Many Black Americans Are Dying Of COVID-19

In Michigan, 40% of the people who've died are black, even though black people only make up 14% of the state population.

Posted on April 8, 2020, at 3:34 p.m. ET

Michigan Office of the Governor via AP

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As the coronavirus spreads through the United States and kills thousands, data is emerging that shows the virus may be killing black Americans at disproportionate rates.

The disparity may be due to a variety of factors rooted in inequality, ProPublica reported, including unequal access to medical care, higher rates of underlying health conditions, and a high likelihood of working "essential" jobs, such as grocery store and transit workers.

In Michigan, which now has the third-highest rate of deaths from COVID-19, 40% of the people who've died are black, even though black people only make up 14% of the state population, state officials said.

In an interview with BuzzFeed News' AM to DM on Wednesday, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said the coronavirus is "holding up a mirror to the United States of America" and revealing structural inequalities that have long existed.

Full Interview: @GovWhitmer shares the latest on the COVID-19 outbreak in Michigan and the disproportionate impact it’s had on black Americans. She also weighs in on speculation that she could be @JoeBiden’s running mate.

"It’s not acceptable, it never has been, and it’s even more clear right now that we’ve got work to do as a country," Whitmer said.

"Right now, in the middle of this crisis, we have to do everything we can to educate, to support, and to protect all people, and focus on communities of color," she said. "But beyond this, we’ve got a lot of work as a nation to do to address those inequities that have been contributing to this horrible situation that we’re all confronting."

In March, Whitmer endorsed Joe Biden for president, and many are speculating he may choose her as his vice president.

Whitmer would not say whether she would accept, if offered the job, saying "being a part of a national conversation is never something [she] was looking for."

"When President Trump or Vice President Biden utters my name, it is something that I hear, I understand," she said. "But I’m really focused on the front line and making sure that [there is] PPE for the true superheroes of this moment, and that’s the people putting their own health on the line to take care of others."

Whitmer praised Biden, saying he is "one of the best strategic minds in our country at the moment."

"I’m grateful for counsel and friendship from anybody who’s got some words of wisdom to share as we’re navigating these unprecedented times," she said.

Biden has said he would pick a woman as his vice president, and Whitmer said she thinks there are plenty who'd be right for the job.

"There are a lot of incredible female leaders in this country that I know that is on that same list," she said. "So it's an embarrassment of riches, to be honest, and so just to be included amongst those names is an honor, but it’s not something I’m able to focus any energy on at this juncture."

"I’m strictly focused on trying to help the 10 million people in the state of Michigan who are worried, who are confronting COVID-19, and who’ve made incredible sacrifices as we as a state are navigating this," she said.

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