Leaders from big cities with black communities hit hard by COVID-19 want DOJ investigation

A nationwide video call was held Wednesday with city leaders from New York, Chicago and Detroit on it.

They say a national trend is emerging and it shows that COVID-19 is hitting communities of color hardest - and they are calling on a federal investigation. 

"It's unacceptable and it is a Civil Rights issue that needs to be addressed," said Mary Sheffield, Detroit City Council president pro tem.

A request was sent to the Department of Justice citing what local leaders call alarming numbers that show COVID-19 is disproportionately affecting African-American and Hispanic communities. 

The Centers for Disease Control reported in the first month of the pandemic that 1 in 3 people requiring a hospital stay were African-American. 

"We are demanding answers, we are demanding accountability, we are demanding transparency," Sheffield said.

Sheffield says the virus highlights a historical dis-investment in urban communities.  In Michigan, African-Americans make up 14 percent of the population, but 40 percent of COVID-19 related deaths.

The numbers are striking in Chicago. The city is about a third African-American residents and the COVID-19 death rate is 72 percent. 

"We just want to make sure black and brown communities are receiving the proper testing, the proper care and the proper response," she said.

Mary Sheffield

From the beginning, health officials warned that minority communities would be more susceptible to severe cases of this virus because of higher instance of underlying health issues.

"We reject the narrative that underlying conditions are the sole reason that we are seeing these high rates," she said.

Sheffield does believe Civil Rights were violated - but wants the Department of Justice to find out how and who.

"We are looking for the DOJ to provide some policy recommendations to how we can solve this issue and make sure we are better prepared if in fact, there is a second round," she said.