WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) joined Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Kamala Harris (D-CA) in introducing the Equitable Data Collection and Disclosure on COVID-19 Act. Identical legislation was also introduced in the House of Representatives 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 House colleagues.
“The coronavirus crisis is further exposing the disparity in basic human rights faced by black and brown communities across the country,” said Brown. “We are not doing enough to protect everyone in our country from this crisis, and without comprehensive data on who is affected, and why, we will not be able to beat this virus.”
Data from a recent Columbus Dispatch report show that, as of the report, 20% of the 5,512 confirmed cases in Ohio were Black patients, despite making up only 12% of Ohio’s population.
The bill would 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 would 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 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 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.
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:
It would also authorize $50 million in funding for the CDC, state public health agencies, the Indian Health Service, and other agencies to improve their data collection infrastructure and create an inter-agency commission to make recommendations on improving data collection and transparency and equitably responding to this crisis.
Other Senate co-sponsors of the legislation are Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Ed Markey (D-MA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Tom Carper (D-DE), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Mark Warner (D-VA), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), and Gary Peters (D-MI).
The Equitable Data Collection and Disclosure on COVID-19 Act is endorsed by the National Urban League, Lawyer's Committee on Civil Rights, Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum and National Action Network.
Last week, Sen. Brown co-signed a letter, led by Sen. Menendez, to the Administration regarding COVID-19 related disparities. The letter highlights racial disparities in infection and mortality rate and urges the Administration to work with states to provide disaggregated racial data to the CDC in their COVID-19 case reporting. The letter also requests an update on the Administration’s outreach efforts to minority communities, as well as non-English speaking communities. Lastly the letter encourages the Administration to ensure diverse participation in any COVID-19 vaccine or drug trials.