Hoyer Presses States to Collect Data on Racial Disparities and COVID-19

April 10, 2020 by Dan McCue
House Majority Leader Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) speaks during a press conference at the U.S. Capitol Aug. 13, 2019 in Washington, D.C. (Win McNamee/Getty Images/TNS)

WASHINGTON – House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer urged the National Governors Association Friday to direct its members to collect demographic data on racial disparities and the coronavirus outbreak.

Hoyer’s request, directed to Govs. Larry Hogan, of Maryland, and Andrew Cuomo, of New York, the chair and vice chair, respectively, of the association, comes in the wake of mounting evidence that black and Latino communities in the U.S. are being particularly hard hit by the virus.

Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Health and Human Services have yet to release coronavirus data broken down by race, an analysis of state data conducted by the Associated Press found that nearly 3,300 of the nation’s 13,000 deaths thus far — about 42% — were black.

This at a time when blacks account for only about 21 percent of the total population in the areas covered by the analysis.

The AP’s analysis is one of the first attempts to examine the racial disparities of COVID-19 cases and deaths nationwide.

It involved examining more than 4,450 deaths and 52,000 COVID-19 cases from across the country, relying on the handful of state and local governments that have released victims’ race.

In New York State, Attorney General Letitia James said Wednesday that the state needs to do more to produce racial data after preliminary numbers showed 28% of coronavirus deaths in New York City were black and 34% were Latinos.

New York has the highest number of cases in the country and New York City alone has more cases than scores of states.

New York, however, has still not produced any racial breakdown of its cases.

James thanked Gov. Cuomo for his efforts to address the disparities, but said “we must all continue to do more.”

“Public health crises like this both reveal and exacerbate the depths of inequality in our society,” she said.

In his letter to the National Governors Association, Hoyer said if all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and all U.S. territories collected demographic data on those who become ill or die during the viral outbreak, it will “help us better understand and address these racial disparities in the coronavirus pandemic in our country.”

Addressing the recipients personally, he added, “Both of you have been at the forefront of addressing this pandemic and setting an example of leadership in the face of this emergency. I hope you will help lead the way on tackling this facet of the pandemic as well.”

Hoyer said he and several of his congressional colleagues are already working to raise awareness of these disparities, and to find ways to spread the word in African-American and Latino communities about the dangers of COVID-19 and the importance of social and physical distancing to stop its spread. 

“Sadly, much misinformation that circulated in these communities early on in this crisis makes it even more critical that we act quickly to ensure that they have enough resources to fight back against the virus,” Hoyer said. 

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