State Watch

State AGs highlight racial disparities in early coronavirus data

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Several state attorneys general on Thursday highlighted racial disparities during the ongoing pandemic after early numbers of coronavirus contractions and deaths show people of color are disproportionately affected. 

On the national level, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) have not yet released coronavirus data broken down by race.

However, within the handful of states that do report such data — such as Michigan and Illinois — Latinos and black people have significantly higher mortality rates. 

New York Attorney General Letitia James said Wednesday that the state needs to do more to produce racial data after preliminary numbers showed 34 percent of coronavirus deaths in New York City were Latinos and 28 percent were black.

New York has the highest number of cases in the country and New York City alone has more cases than dozens of other states. New York has still not produced any racial breakdown of their cases. 

“Public health crises like this both reveal and exacerbate the depths of inequality in our society. I thank Governor [Andrew] Cuomo for his efforts to address these devastating disparities, but we must all continue to do more,” James, the first black person and the first woman to hold her position said in a statement.

States that have yet to produce this kind of reporting have said it is due to incomplete data from private labs.

The same is true in Nevada, where the state has not yet produced a racial breakdown of its cases, but in Clark County, where Las Vegas is located, 19 percent of those infected are black despite the fact that black people make up only 12 percent of the population.

“I’m particularly concerned about this as an African American Attorney General understanding that looking at the data right now I and my family members are more prone to die if we were to contract COVID-19,” Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford told The Hill. 

On Tuesday, Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, said “health disparities have always existed for the African American community” and this crisis is just “shining a bright light on how unacceptable that is.”

Ford, who is prediabetic, echoed sentiments repeated by public health advocates, noting black people and Latinos are statistically more likely to suffer from inequities in healthcare, even absent a pandemic. 

“We are living the outcome of public policies, institutional practices, of culture representations that are reinforced in ways that perpetuate racial group inequities,” Ford, the only black statewide elected official in his state, said. 

Ford, like other Democratic attorneys general, has advocated for maintaining the Affordable Care Act and enforcing eviction memorandums. 

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel tweeted Wednesday “when you advocate against universal healthcare, a living wage, paid sick leave, public education and environmental regulations, the virus disproportionately impacts communities of color and black Americans get sick and die at exponentially higher rates.”

Tags Anthony Fauci Coronavirus Health equity Letitia James Pandemic Public health Race and health in the United States

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