Trump administration to require race data in coronavirus lab results for first time

CDC says it only has race data in about 42 percent of the cases reported.

June 4, 2020, 4:50 PM

The Trump administration announced Thursday that beginning Aug. 1 it will require that any lab results for COVID-19 reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will include a person’s race, ethnicity, zip code, age and sex.

The move is intended to give the federal government a better picture of how the virus is impacting communities of color. Lawmakers have been demanding the data for several weeks, raising questions about why the administration waited until four months into the crisis to act.

“Data is the roadmap. It’s fundamentally the key first step we need to address the disparities” among communities, said Robert Redfield, director of the CDC, in testimony before the House Appropriations labor, health and education subcommittee.

Federal and state health officials have previously warned that communities of color have been disproportionally hit with the virus, experiencing more hospitalizations and deaths than white neighborhoods. Health officials say this is due in part to underlying health conditions like asthma and diabetes that are more common in black and Latino communities, as well as people of color more commonly working jobs that expose them, such as staffing nursing homes, grocery stores and public transportation.

While some states have released race data on coronavirus cases, the CDC has access to race and ethnicity information in only 42 percent of the cases reported, according to its web site. Of those cases, 22 percent of people with COVID-19 were black and almost 33 percent were Latino.

The lack of hard data is due in part data being collected by private doctors, hospitals and labs and then reported to state public health departments.

Lacking a better option, the White House has gone so far as to ask states to email coronavirus data daily. Thursday’s announcement – several months into the crisis -- would be the first time that the federal government has demanded race and ethnicity be included in test results.

An initial report sent to Congress included limited information on the subject, and Redfield said he expects some additional data by mid-June when the next assessment will be delivered. After that though, Redfield said he expects states to begin offering richer details on COVID-19 patients.

Adm. Brett Giroir, assistant secretary for health who has been coordinating testing efforts, told reporters on Thursday: “We are dedicated to leading to America to healthier lives, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, sex, geography, or sexual orientation.”

When asked about if protestors should be tested, particularly if they were detained, Giroir said it would fall within the federal guidelines for states to offer it.

Earlier this month, the CDC sent to Congress a report required by law that included what little data it had on communities of color and novel coronavirus.

The report mostly provided links to existing online data.

“The effects of COVID-19 on the health of racial and ethnic minority groups is still emerging,” the CDC wrote to Congress. “However, current data suggest a disproportionate burden of illness and death among racial and ethnic minority groups.”

In his testimony Thursday, Redfield promised subsequent reports will have more information, hopefully by July.

“I have every intent to get that data,” he said.

The CDC has increased its prediction of deaths related to to COVID-19, estimating Thursday it will rise between 118,000 and 143,000 by June 27.

ABC News' Eric Strauss contributed to this report.

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