Trump administration requiring labs to report racial, ethnic information from COVID-19 test results

Trump administration requiring labs to report racial, ethnic information from COVID-19 test results

Labs testing for COVID-19 will be required to report the racial and ethnic information of positive and negative test results to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Trump administration announced Thursday.

The new requirement is intended to deepen the understanding of the impact of COVID-19 on communities of color and ensure there is equitable testing among all populations.

“This is only one small component of my office's efforts to combat health disparities that have plagued our nation for decades,” Assistant Secretary for Health Admiral Brett Giroir said on a call with reporters Thursday.

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Racial and ethnic data is only known for less than half of COVID-19 cases reported to the CDC. The available data shows black people make up 22 percent of COVID-19 cases, despite making up 13 percent of the population.

Labs will also be required to report the age and ZIP codes of test results.

“With these data, we will be able to improve decision-making and better prevent or mitigate further illnesses among Americans,” Giroir said.

Most of these fields are not reported by hospital labs, and are rarely reported by large commercial labs, Giroir said.

Hospitals and large commercial labs perform most of the COVID-19 testing in the U.S.

Labs that don’t comply could lose their authorization to perform COVID-19 testing.

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Labs have until Aug. 1 to comply, but Giroir said he expects many labs will begin to report that data before the deadline.

Democrats have been frustrated with the CDC over the lack of racial and ethnic data of COVID-19 cases. The CDC sent a report to Congress last month on the issue, as required by federal law, but it lacked information requested and mostly included links to the CDC's website. 

CDC Director Robert Redfield apologized to lawmakers for the report Thursday morning, noting that the agency is working to improve on data collection, partly with the new requirements. 

"I personally want to apologize for the inadequacy of our response," Redfield said during a House Appropriations subcommittee hearing. 

"We didn't have the data we needed to be able to answer that in a responsive way," he said. 

Updated at 1:37 p.m.