Lawmakers call for better data on COVID-19 and race

Washington-DC

WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — Federal lawmakers say the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention need to provide a clearer picture of how the coronavirus is affecting communities of color around the country.

“We need to have that information,” Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said. “We’re just shooting in the dark here. We don’t know, and that’s not good enough.”

Data from the state of Michigan, where 14% of the population is black, shows 40% of those killed by coronavirus have been African American.

Republican Sen. Josh Hawley said there’s a clear racial disparity nationwide, including in St. Louis and Kansas City in his state of Missouri. He said some areas will need targeted aid.

“We need to surge resources every place that is being hard hit,” he said.

Early data published by the CDC suggests a third of COVID-19 patients are black, though they account for less than 14% of the total population. And the actual figures could be even more disproportionate — because 75% of the CDC’s patient information doesn’t include race, the full scope of the problem is unclear.

“Either states aren’t forthcoming with the information or the CDC is not demanding it like they should, but it’s extremely important,” said Rep. Robin Kelly, D-Ill., who directs health policy for the Congressional Black Caucus. “What we went to see is more testing; more concentrated, focused testing; contact tracing; we want to see results, so rapid response.”

She and Stabenow are backing plans to force the administration step up reporting requirements.

The CDC said there are so many cases of coronavirus that it’s difficult for state and local health departments to keep track of race in each one. It said it’s looking for ways to find more data, including reviewing hospital records and epidemiological studies.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says it is starting to analyze the demographics, but that the full data doesn’t yet exist because of delays in claims.

A fuller picture of nationwide data about COVID-19 and race will be published by early May.

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