The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the great majority of state health departments have not been releasing information about the race and ethnicity of people who have tested positive or died because of COVID-19.
The CDC’s public reports have broken down cases by age and gender, while most states have provided information only by county.
It is absolutely essential to publish racial and ethnic data now and regularly throughout the pandemic. News reports suggest that COVID-19 is, at this time, disproportionately affecting people of color. In order to save lives, it is urgent to determine the causes for this, including whether people of color are receiving insufficient medical treatment.
It is not a question of whether the information exists. The medical case report form for COVID-19 includes ethnicity, sex, race and age, and specifies whether individual patients were tested, hospitalized, admitted to ICUs, and whether they died.
What should you do about it? For one, follow the lead of the Indiana Black Legislative Caucus which sent the following letter to their Governor (edited to a model for any state):
The purpose of this letter is to urge you to release data related to any health disparities in the state regarding COVID-19. The pandemic we face is unprecedented in modern times; we must now work together for the health of our state and all its communities.
In order to ensure that the conversation about any racial or ethnic disparities is not excluded from government briefings, we urge that data provided by the state about COVID-19 detail, at a minimum, the ethnic and racial subgroups Black, White, Latino and Asian-American, specifically including:
- How many people within each subgroup have been tested in the state?
- How many within each subgroup have tested positive?
- How many within each subgroup have been hospitalized?
- How many within each subgroup have died due to complications related to COVID-19?
It is essential in the days moving forward that we have a comprehensive plan for this disease. We must understand its impact on our healthcare system as a whole, as well as on the subgroups among our residents. We must all work together to save lives. That requires information. We call on you to make this data available to the public both during news briefings and via the Internet.
Telling the whole truth about COVID-19 is essential, both to fight dangerous disinformation and to allow policymakers to understand who needs the most support in order to curtail the spread of the virus, which in turn will save lives in every demographic group.