Congressional Black Caucus calls on CDC to report racial data

Greg Nash

The Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) is calling on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to report racial data in updates on the coronavirus outbreak after figures reported by certain states and counties showed black Americans are disproportionately affected by the pandemic.

The group sent a letter to the CDC on Tuesday requesting the data after sending a separate letter to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) last week. A CDC official told The Hill that the agency will provide some figures regarding race as soon as this week.

“HHS’ lack of willingness to collect and publicly disclose racial data has led some public health departments to fill the gap,” the lawmakers wrote, pointing to figures that local health officials have reported in a handful of states across the country.

Earlier this week, Chicago reported black residents account for 68 percent of the city’s 118 deaths at the time and 52 percent of the roughly 5,000 confirmed coronavirus cases, despite making up just 30 percent of the city’s population. Similar rates exist in Louisiana and in Wisconsin’s Milwaukee County.

“Although everyone is at risk, the history of structural racism, income inequality, and lack of resources in communities of color make these communities especially vulnerable to COVID-19,” the lawmakers wrote.

The CBC’s letter is just the latest call from lawmakers asking for health officials to produce the data. Democratic lawmakers a week ago sent a letter to HHS Secretary Alex Azar asking the department to collect racial and ethnic demographic data on testing and treatment for the coronavirus. On Tuesday, Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D-Mass.) called on his state’s health department to do the same.

State health officials have said that private lab tests that don’t collect information on race make it difficult to report such data.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) on Wednesday vowed to ramp up coronavirus testing in minority communities and investigate the racial disparities in deaths from the pandemic after New York City released preliminary data that showed black and Latino residents are disproportionately affected.

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