Black people are being disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. Now, lawyers, lawmakers, and medical professionals alike are calling on the government to collect and release daily racial and ethnic demographic data related to COVID-19 testing, cases, and patient outcomes.
On Monday, The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and nearly 400 medical professionals issued a demand letter to the United States Department of Health and Human Services and its relevant sub-agencies including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) requesting data. The committee also filed a Freedom of Information Act requesting the demographic data.
Their call for action comes a week after Rep. Ayanna Pressley and Sen. Elizabeth Warren sent a letter.
In a statement released by the committee, Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law said, “We are deeply concerned that African American communities are being hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, and that racial bias may be impacting the access they receive to testing and healthcare.”
She continued by saying, “Equal access to healthcare is a critical civil rights issue, and during this novel pandemic, the public deserves nothing less than full transparency from this Administration and state public health officials. To fully confront this pandemic, we must ensure that communities of color receive equitable healthcare and treatment during this crisis. Comprehensive and publicly-available racial data is a necessary weapon in the fight to confront COVID-19.”
As the health crisis impacts the economy and overall well-being of people, the Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is concerned that the impact of the pandemic will hinder growth and development in the black community. The demand for data is a call for state officials to be transparent about how the pandemic will and is impacting black people.
The letter to Health and Human Services also outlines how workers face unique health challenges and access to healthcare in low-income and rural communities.
From the letter:
Recently analyzed health data indicates that African Americans in some states and counties are being infected and dying from COVID-19 at higher rates than whites. In Illinois, African Americans make up 14.6% of the population, but 29.4% of confirmed cases and 41.2% of deaths as of April 6. Similarly, Michigan’s population is 14% Black, but African Americans currently make up 34% of COVID19 cases and 40% of deaths. On April 3rd, Pro Publica reported that in Milwaukee County, where the population is 26% Black, African Americans currently comprise “almost half of [the] County’s 941 cases and 81% of its 27 deaths.” The data coming out of these states is likely indicative of the disproportionate impact that COVID19 is having on Black communities and other communities of color throughout the country.
The CDC is not currently publicly reporting racial or ethnic demographic data for COVID19 cases or tests performed across the country. Yet, the CDC requests this critical information from health departments through the COVID19 Case Report Form “to track the impact of the outbreak and inform public health response.” Today’s call to action urges the federal and state agencies to begin publicly reporting this information immediately.
Black Health Matters
In the same statement released by the group, prominent leaders weighed in adding, “Despite significant advances in healthcare and health technology over the last five decades, racialized health disparities have been both persistent and profound. Black Americans have carried the highest burden of chronic diseases, shortest life expectancies, and highest maternal and infant mortality rates,” said Dr. Uche Blackstock, founder & CEO of Advancing Health Equity. “As we have already seen, the COVID19 pandemic has and will undoubtedly amplify racialized health inequities, further devastating Black and other marginalized communities. Collecting racial and ethnic demographic data on testing, cases, and health outcomes will be imperative to mitigating the effects of the COVID19 pandemic on our already vulnerable populations and will ensure healthcare resources are allocated equitably.”
Taison Bell, assistant professor in the infectious disease and pulmonary critical care divisions at the University of Virginia added, “The coronavirus has made itself clear that it does not discriminate on the basis of race, ethnicity, or any other of the means by which we categorize ourselves. We demand equal access to care and treatment even in the middle of a national pandemic.”
With the rapid spreading of COVID-19, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is urging the government to begin reporting racial and ethnic demographic data. And they have requested a written response due to them no later than April 20, 2020. To learn more about their efforts and to read the letter, click here.
For the latest updates on how the health crisis is impacting the black community, click here.