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Congressional Tri-Caucus Chairs Call on CDC to Release Nationwide Demographic Data

Early regional data shows COVID-19 is disproportionately affecting communities of color

Published on Thursday, April 9, 2020 | 11:31 am

The Congressional Tri-Caucus Chairs are calling on the Trump Administration to ensure there are no racial or ethnic health disparities regarding the testing and treatment of the Coronavirus.

Rep. Judy Chu (D-Pasadena), who chairs the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) and the chairs of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC), and Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) urged Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Azar and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Redfield to work with the Tri-Caucus to ensure nationwide demographic data is released publicly and in real time and to find the best approach in collecting disaggregated data without compromising data collection or the integrity of CDC data.

“Based on early regional data that is available, we are alarmed to learn that the virus is disproportionately affecting communities of color. Unfortunately, the CDC has not released nationwide demographic data, which hinders our efforts to understand these emerging trends.”

“We understand that the Person Under Investigation form allows for the collection of top-level race and ethnicity information but would like to verify when and if the CDC plans to publicly release these findings, the Members wrote.”

“We understand that reporting data prematurely can compromise the integrity of the data sets, but having timely and accurate data is critical for policy makers to inform essential legislation that will impact millions of Americans and future generations. We are very concerned with the current absence of nationwide demographic data and how the lack of data can hamper the response to COVID-19.

“Without this data, stakeholders are unable to adequately target both public health campaigns and ensure that providers have the resources needed to test and treat diverse populations.”

The letter is signed by Chu, CHC Chairman Joaquin Castro (D-San Antonio), and CBC Chairwoman Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles).

African Americans and other minority groups could be more prone to the virus due to more statistical occurrence of underlying conditions.
Nearly 48 percent of African American women and 44 percent of African American men have some form of heart disease according to the Heart Foundation.

African Americans are also more likely to develop high blood pressure and diabetes.

As of April 3, African Americans made up almost half of Milwaukee County’s 945 cases and 81 percent of its 27 deaths in a county whose population is 26 percent black. Milwaukee is one of the few places in the county that is tracking the racial breakdown of people who have been infected by the virus.

In Michigan, where the state’s population is 14 percent black, African Americans made up 35 percent of cases and 40 percent of deaths as of Friday morning.

Some agencies are asking if racial bias is limiting access to testing.

“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,” Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. The committee and nearly 400 medical professionals have demanded that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services release daily racial and ethnic demographic data on Coronavirus testing, cases, and outcomes.

The 1964 Civil Rights Act and the Affordable Care Act prohibit discrimination in health care services. The absence of data amounts to denial of appropriate care, the group is claiming.

“Under section 4302 of the ACA, HHS is required to collect, analyze, and report disaggregated data for health care programs. Currently, the CDC COVID Case report form only collects high-level information and does not collect any disaggregated data by race, ethnicity, primary language, gender, disability status and socioeconomic status,” the letter states. “We understand that making changes to health forms in the midst of a pandemic can be a challenge, so the Tri-Caucus would like to work closely with the CDC and state health agencies to help provide adequate resources and support the best strategy to reach this goal without compromising data collection or the integrity of CDC data.”

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