Healthcare workers attend to Covid-19 patients at a private clinic in Madrid: Pierre-Philippe Marcou/AFP/Getty

A man who died in Michigan was denied coronavirus testing at three different emergency rooms because he was black, his family has alleged, as state officials said a “medical bias” may exist in Covid-19 testing.

Gary Fowler, 56, was reportedly not tested for the novel virus at the three Detroit-area emergency rooms despite having many symptoms associated with the disease, according to his stepson, Keith Gambrell.

“He was begging for his life, but no one would help him at all,” Mr Gambrell said about his stepfather in an interview with CBS This Morning. “They just kept sending him away.”

He added: “I honestly believe it was because my father was black. They didn’t honestly take his symptoms serious enough to give him a test.”

Mr Fowler later died at home. He reportedly wrote the words “heart beat irregular … oxygen level low” on a piece of paper before he passed away.

The family faced multiple severe coronavirus cases, including Mr Fowler’s father, who died from Covid-19 a day before his own death.

Mr Fowler’s wife, Cheryl, was also sent to a hospital after developing symptoms, and was put on a ventilator to assist with her breathing.

Out of concern for his family amid the outbreak, Mr Gambrell called his cousin, Karen Whitsett, a state representative who happened to recently visit the White House to speak about surviving her own case of the novel virus.

Ms Whitsett then managed to have the whole family tested, telling CBS it “sickens” her that she had to use her title as a state lawmaker “to get my family tested”.

The state launched a task force dedicated to investigating racial inequalities surrounding the coronavirus pandemic.

Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist, chair of the state task force, told the network his group would address “the fact that there may indeed be medical bias present when it comes to testing”.

The lieutenant governor also said such a bias may exist in terms of “who will even get a test, as well as in how treatment is administered”.

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In announcing the launch of the new task force, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer noted the coronavirus outbreak “has taken a disproportionate toll on Michigan’s communities of colour”.

“I am confident this task force will help us identify the factors driving this disparity and to identify actions we can take to create a more equitable Michigan for everyone,” the governor said. “Each of the task force members will provide a unique perspective and play a vital part in identifying these barriers and ensuring all Michiganders have equal access to critical resource when they need them most.”

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