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Oregon Delegation Demands Trump Administration Provide Data Necessary to Address Health Disparities Amid Coronavirus Crisis

April 14, 2020
Press Release
Letter follows report that Latino/as are disproportionately affected by COVID-19 in Oregon

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, along with Representatives Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR-1), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR-3), Kurt Schrader (D-OR-5), and Peter DeFazio (D-OR-4), are pushing the Trump administration to monitor and address dangerous health inequities that are disproportionately causing coronavirus-related deaths in minority communities in Oregon and across the country.

 

“We know that communities of color, LGBTQ+ individuals, women, and other currently and historically marginalized communities face inequitable access to health and worse health outcomes, in addition to differences in the quality of care and the collection of health data,” the lawmakers wrote in their letter to Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar. “These health disparities are only further amplified during a health crisis. We are seeing this in Oregon, where data released by the state on April 8 shows Latino/as are disproportionally affected by COVID-19.”

 

To properly address these inequities, the lawmakers request additional data collection, including public daily reporting of disaggregated COVID-19 cases and deaths, and the inclusion, when possible, of economic and social factors in available data, such as a patient’s income, occupation, education, housing status, and primary language.

 

“We are seeing this nationally among many minority communities with higher rates of chronic disease or underlying health conditions who have disproportionate rates of infection and mortality,” the lawmakers continued. “We urge you to work with states and localities to collect comprehensive data that is disaggregated and publicly reported daily. We also ask that you take immediate action to respond to the current outcomes, including by targeting resources and taking proactive action to communities based on need and disproportionate share of COVID-19 cases and fatalities.”

 

In addition to sending the letter, Senator Merkley, along with 102 of his colleagues in the Senate and U.S. House of Representatives, today introduced the Equitable Data Collection and Disclosure on COVID-19 Act, which would require HHS to collect and report racial data on COVID-19 testing, treatment, and fatality rates, publish daily updates, and provide a summary of the final statistics and a report to Congress within 60 days after the end of the public health emergency.

 

The full text of the letter is available here and follows below.

 

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Dear Secretary Azar,

 

We write regarding data showing minority communities are disproportionately affected by COVID-19 and to ask what steps the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is taking to monitor health inequities and to curb the current outcomes, including in Oregon.

 

On April 8, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention took a first step in releasing initial data on the hospitalization rates and characteristics of patients hospitalized with COVID-19. The data underscores the need for additional data collection, including public daily reporting of disaggregated COVID-19 cases and deaths. In addition to the location, age, gender, race and underlying health conditions, we ask that you include to the extent it is possible, economic (e.g. income and occupation) and social (e.g. education, housing status, and language) factors in the data collection to assist public health researchers better understand the disparities.

 

COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on racial minorities. We know that communities of color, LGBTQ+ individuals, women, and other currently and historically marginalized communities face inequitable access to health and worse health outcomes, in addition to differences in the quality of care and the collection of health data. These health disparities are only further amplified during a health crisis. We are seeing this in Oregon, where data released by the state on April 8 shows Latino/as are disproportionally affected by COVID-19. We are seeing this nationally among many minority communities with higher rates of chronic disease or underlying health conditions who have disproportionate rates of infection and mortality.

 

We urge you to work with states and localities to collect comprehensive data that is disaggregated and publicly reported daily. We also ask that you take immediate action to respond to the current outcomes, including by targeting resources and taking proactive action to communities based on need and disproportionate share of COVID-19 cases and fatalities.

 

Thank you for your continued work during this pandemic. We look forward to your response and thank you for your consideration of these important issues.

 

Sincerely,

Issues: