April 14, 2020

Harris, Colleagues Introduce Bicameral Legislation to Require Federal Government to Collect and Report Coronavirus Demographic Data, Including Race and Ethnicity

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Kamala D. Harris (D-CA) joined Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) in introducing the bicameral Equitable Data Collection and Disclosure on COVID-19 Act. Along with Harris and Warren, the legislation is co-sponsored by Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and 14 of their Senate colleagues. In the House, the legislation is being introduced 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 80 of their colleagues. 

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. 

“Black people and other people of color are being infected and dying from COVID-19 at alarming rates. Without the collection and publication of data at the national level, we cannot fully understand the scope of the issue and take appropriate action to help the most hard-hit communities. We need to right the historical wrongs that have led to deep health disparities for generations. This is a necessary step,” said Senator Harris.  

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 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:

  • Data related to COVID-19 testing, including the number of individuals tested and the number of tests that were positive.
  • Data related to treatment for COVID-19, including hospitalizations and intensive care unit admissions and duration;
  • Data related to COVID-19 outcomes, including fatalities.

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 responding equitably to this crisis. 

Other Senate co-sponsors of the legislation are Senators 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), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), 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.

Full text of the bill can be found here.

A one-pager on the bill can be found here.