400 health professionals press HHS on minority access to coronavirus tests

400 health professionals press HHS on minority access to coronavirus tests
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Four hundred health professionals signed a letter pressing the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to release data on minority access to coronavirus tests.

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law sent the letter, signed by the professionals, to push the department to address the “alarming lack of transparency and data” on the COVID-19’s effects on black communities and other communities of color. 

The medical professionals are calling for the release of daily racial and ethnic demographic data on coronavirus testing, disease burden and patient outcomes. They request a written response by April 20.

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“We are concerned that Black communities are being disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, and have lower access to COVID-19 testing which may cause delayed care, an increased risk of high mortality rates, and the acceleration of the spread of the disease in our communities,” the letter states.

The professionals assert that the department is responsible for ensuring there is no racial discrimination in health care services, “even in a pandemic.” 

They are hoping the data would help inform a public health response in the black community and determine whether coronavirus tests are “not being administered or withheld in a racially discriminatory manner.”

The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is not publishing racial data for the COVID-19 cases or tests conducted. But some state and local governments have released such data.

The HHS did not immediately return a request for comment.

In Illinois, African Americans make up 14.6 percent of the population but 28 percent of the cases, the Atlantic reported last week. ProPublica determined that in Milwaukee County almost half of the cases and 81 percent of the 27 deaths occurred in the black community, even though it makes up 26 percent of the population.

Michigan’s and North Carolina’s black communities are also disproportionately contracting and dying from the virus.