White House taps ex-Tanana Chiefs chairman Victor Joseph for COVID-equity task force

Victor Joseph (courtesy Tanana Chiefs Conference)

Former Tanana Chiefs Conference Chief and Chairman Victor Joseph has been appointed to a federal task force set up by the Biden administration to ensure all Americans are tested and treated for COVID-19 fairly.

Former Tanana Chiefs Chairman Victor Joseph says he’s gratified to have been selected to serve on the COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force.

“It is a real honor to participate at this level,” he said in an interview Wednesday.

Joseph has worked more than 20 years for Tanana Chiefs, including seven as its health director and six as its chief and chairman, a position he held until his second term expired in October.

Joseph says his work with the organization contributed to his selection to serve on the task force, including “my experience over the years, being in health care and being in administration.”

White House news release announcing the task force appointments says the COVID-19 pandemic has “exposed and exacerbated severe and pervasive health and social inequities in America.”  It says “People of color experience systemic and structural racism in many facets of our society and are more likely to become sick and die from COVID-19.”

Joseph says ensuring equity in providing care for all communities is the task force’s central mission.

“I want to do whatever I can to ensure that there is equity throughout this,” he said.

Community Health Aide Nicole Gregory gives 93-year-old Virginia Johnston a COVID-19 vaccination on Dec. 21– the first elder to receive the shot at the Yukon-Koyukuk Elder Assisted Living Facility in Galena. Tanana Chiefs Conference has been coordinating COVID vaccinations for communities in the TCC region of Alaska. (courtesy Tanana Chiefs Conference)

The White House says problems with incomplete data that doesn’t track race and ethnicity are undercutting COVID testing and treatment in those diverse communities.

The release says data that’s not broken down by race and ethnicity on COVID-19 infection, hospitalization and mortality rates, as well as underlying health and social vulnerabilities of those people, has “further hampered efforts to ensure an equitable pandemic response.”

The release also says inequities in rural and tribal communities require “a place-based approach to data collection.”

The task force will recommend ways to address those inequities, according to the news release.

President Biden created the task force last month by executive order. It’s headed by Health and Human Services Secretary-designate Xavier Becerra, and it will include officials from other agencies, along the 12 task force members.

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