Booker welcomes COVID-19 racial data from CDC

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New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy and New Jersey Senator Cory Booker tour the field hospital in Edison, N.J. on Wednesday, April 8, 2020. (Office of the Attorney General / Tim Larsen)
Urban News Staff Reports

Reports indicate that coronavirus (COVID-19) fatalities among Black New Jerseyans is 50% higher than any other racial group in the state. New Jersey U.S. Sen. Cory Booker recently got his wish for the Center for Disease Control (CDC) to release numbers about COVID-19 and its impact on African Americans.

“This is a welcome step that will help us better allocate resources and information, and better understand the health disparities entwined with COVID-19, so we can act to end them,” Booker said. “I sincerely hope that when this crisis is behind us, we will all expand our moral imagination to act with greater urgency in addressing the systemic, deep-rooted, and structural inequities that underpin these racial health disparities.”

Last week, Booker signed on as a co-sponsor of the bicameral Equitable Data Collection and Disclosure on COVID-19 Act introduced by U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). The legislation is co-sponsored by Senators Kamala Harris (D-CA), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and 14 of their Senate colleagues.

In the House, the legislation is being introduced by Representative Ayanna Pressley (D-MA-07), Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus Health Braintrust Representative Robin Kelly (D-IL-02), Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus Representative Karen Bass (D-CA-37), Representative Barbara Lee (D- CA-13), and is co-sponsored by more than 80 of their colleagues.

"The story of communities of color bearing the brunt of public suffering is a tragically familiar one in our nation's history. In order to best allocate resources and information, we need demographic data that will help us better understand these health disparities and act to end them," said Booker.

The bill require the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to collect and report racial and other demographic data on COVID-19 testing, treatment, and fatality rates, and provide a summary of the final statistics and a report to Congress within 60 days after the end of the public health emergency.

It will require HHS to use all available surveillance systems to post daily updates on the CDC website showing data on testing, treatment, and fatalities, disaggregated by race, ethnicity, sex, age, socioeconomic status, disability status, county, and other demographic information.

The legislation came as reports across the United States point to stark racial disparities in COVID-19 cases and fatalities. In Michigan, Black residents account for 33% of confirmed COVID cases and 40% of fatalities, despite making up only 14% of the state's population. In Louisiana, 70% of those who have died from COVID-19 so far are Black, compared with 32% of the state's population. Initial data from Boston shows that among people whose race was reported, more than 40 percent of people infected were Black, compared with only 25% of the population. This past weekend, Chelsea, Mass., a predominately Latinx community, was cited as a hot spot in the COVID 19 outbreak, with initial reporting confirming 400 new cases.

"Black people and other people of color are being infected and dying from COVID-19 at alarming rates. Without the collection and publication of data at the national level, we cannot fully understand the scope of the issue and take appropriate action to help the most hard-hit communities. We need to right the historical wrongs that have led to deep health disparities for generations. This is a necessary step," said Harris.

Specifically, the Equitable Data Collection and Disclosure on COVID-19 Act would require the reporting of the following data disaggregated by race, ethnicity, sex, age, socioeconomic status, disability status, county, and other demographic information:

Data related to COVID-19 testing, including the number of individuals tested and the number of tests that were positive. Data related to treatment for COVID-19, including hospitalizations and intensive care unit admissions and duration; Data related to COVID-19 outcomes, including fatalities.

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