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Rep. Barbara Lee Helps Introduce Legislation to Require Federal Government to Collect and Release COVID-19 Data on Race and Ethnicity

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Congresswomen Barbara Lee (CA-13) was among 85 lawmakers who introduced the Equitable Data Collection and Disclosure on COVID-19 Act on Tuesday. The bill would require the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to collect and report racial, ethnic, 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.

  (D-MA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) were also among the supporters.

The legislation comes 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-19 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 with COVID-19 were Black, despite making up just 25% of the city’s population.

Specifically, the bill would require HHS to use all available surveillance systems to post daily updates on the CDC website showing the following data disaggregated by race, ethnicity, sex, age, socioeconomic status, disability status, county, and other demographic information, including:

• 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; and

• Data related to COVID-19 outcomes, including fatalities.

The bill also would establish an inter-agency commission to make recommendations in real time on improving data collection and transparency and responding equitably to this crisis.

“Centuries of structural racism has created a system where African Americans and other communities of color struggle to access quality health care – making the current crisis even more deadly,” said Congresswoman Barbara Lee. “As elected officials, we have a responsibility to ensure that every community has the resources they need to stay safe. I’m proud to work with my colleagues on the Equitable Data Collection and Disclosure on COVID-19 Act to mandate that the Department of Health and Human Services collects and discloses race-specific data on the victims of this pandemic. After Leader McConnell’s stunt last week to block a relief bill with these requirements, it’s clear we can’t wait to act. No one should face a worse health outcome because of the color of their skin.”

“History has shown us that in the face of any public health crisis, communities of color disproportionately suffer,” said Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley. “We are less likely to have access to quality and affordable health care and more likely to live with underlying conditions. … It’s past time the Department of Health and Human Services begins collecting race-specific data on this pandemic nationwide so that we can fully understand the scope of the crisis and respond.”

“The coronavirus is disproportionately killing Black people,” said Rep. Karen Bass, Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus. “…Now is the time for our nation’s leaders to use race-based data to finally address these disparities and save Black lives.  That’s why the Congressional Black Caucus is fighting for healthcare equality. The Equitable Data Collection and Disclosure on COVID-19 Act will put us one step closer to providing practical solutions to closing the inequalities in the healthcare system, which includes robust funding and resources to the hardest-hit communities.”

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