Last month, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law sent two letters to Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), Alex Azar, requesting comprehensive national race and ethnic demographic data for tests, cases and fatalities related to COVID-19. The Lawyers’ Committee received a letter in response on Thursday from the director of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Robert Redfield.
The director’s response, lacking in substance, indicates that it could be weeks, or even months, before HHS provides a true and accurate account of the impact of this devastating this virus.
The coronavirus has been circulating in major U.S. cities since January. And five months into this pandemic, neither HHS nor the CDC has provided a full and complete data set showing the number of African Americans, and other racial and ethnic minorities, who have been tested for, contracted, or died from the virus. However, the limited data that has been released shows communities of color are suffering disproportionately from the pandemic. Robust and comprehensive race and ethnic demographic data is critical to shape effective policy responses that direct resources to African American communities and other communities of color, and to stem community spread of Covid-19.
“How many African Americans have to die before either HHS or the CDC can provide substantive data on the true racial impacts of COVID-19 and provide a clear plan to address the existing disproportionate impacts on African Americans and other communities of color?” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “This is a public health emergency that requires a strategic response that directs resources to hot spots and towards African American communities that are suffering at higher rates. We cannot properly address a growing problem if the nation’s top health agencies will not adequately report useful data. Everyday there is a delay costs more lives and causes suffering.” Read the CDC response letter here.