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U.S. government is urged to release race, ethnicity data on covid-19 cases

U.S. government is urged to release race, ethnicity data on covid-19 cases 

By Vanessa Williams, Washington Post, April 6, 2020.

A civil rights group and hundreds of doctors are calling on the federal government to release race and ethnicity data on coronavirus infections and deaths from covid-19, citing reports that the pandemic is affecting African Americans at a disproportionate rate.

The information is necessary to “better inform a robust public health response in the Black community” and to “ensure COVID-19 tests are not being administered or withheld in a racially discriminatory manner,” says a letter sent to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

The letter also points to provisions in federal civil rights laws and the Affordable Care Act that prohibit health-care providers “from using federal funds to administer healthcare services that discriminate on the basis of race, color, or national origin.”

The Lawyers’ Committee asks Azar for “a written response no later than April 20, 2020.” Some members of Congress have also asked for breakdowns of coronavirus cases by race and ethnicity.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and most state health departments have not released information about the race and ethnicity of those who have tested positive for the novel coronavirus or died of covid-19, the disease caused by it. The CDC’s public reports have broken down cases by age and gender, while most states have provided information only by county.

“We know they are collecting the data,” Dariely Rodriguez, director of the Economic Justice Project for the Lawyers’ Committee, said in an interview Monday. She said the CDC’s covid-19 case report form includes sections for ethnicity, sex, race and age. It also asks about testing, hospitalization, admissions to intensive care units and mortality. “It’s a very detailed form,” she said.

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