U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand joined Senate colleagues to urge the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to publicly report all available demographic data for COVID-19 cases. Across the country, reports have emerged of disturbing rates of COVID-19 infection and death among African Americans and Latinos. Currently, the CDC is disclosing data on age distribution, hospitalization rates, and fatalities. However, the CDC is not disclosing other important demographic data, including sex, race, ethnicity, and occupation. Recent reports have shown that New York’s communities of color are experiencing higher rates of infection and death; that men seem to have higher risk of mortality than women; and that health workers are becoming infected at alarming rates. Access to key demographic data is increasingly critical to both understand the virus and to provide desperately need resources to vulnerable populations.
“As COVID-19 continues to affect the lives of every American, it is vital we have access to a broad range of data, including sex, race, ethnicity and occupation, in order to understand how this disease affects every community,” said Senator Gillibrand. “By analyzing numbers beyond hospitalizations and fatalities, we can better understand how to treat patients and direct access for testing and treatment statewide. This crisis is exacerbating inequalities in our health care system and we must ensure that all communities are safe.”
The outbreak of COVID-19 has highlighted institutional and ongoing health disparities among black, brown, Native American and other minority populations in America. Due to the prevalence of underlying conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, hypertension and asthma, black and Latino populations face a higher threat of severe illness from coronavirus. Additionally, these vulnerable populations are less likely to have health insurance and are more likely to face difficulty getting tested.
Senator Gillibrand and her colleagues have requested that the CDC publicly report demographic information — sex, race, ethnicity, whether a patient is a health care provider and any other available demographics – to gain a comprehensive understanding of how the virus is deferentially impacting various groups, especially people of color. The senators also called for the data to be accessible to government agencies and researchers as a National Center for Health Statistics public-use data file.
Full text of the letter can be found here.