Democratic lawmakers are calling out an apparent lack of racial data that they say is needed to monitor and address disparities in the national response to the coronavirus outbreak. In a letter sent Friday to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Rep. Ayanna Pressley, both from Massachusetts, said comprehensive demographic data on people who are tested or treated for the virus that causes COVID-19 does not exist. Over the weekend, cities with large black and nonwhite Hispanic populations emerged as new hot spots for the virus, the AP reports. Efforts to stop the spread of the coronavirus must include potential effects "in low-income communities of color," they wrote, to protect people there as well as nationally. "This lack of information will exacerbate existing health disparities and result in the loss of lives in vulnerable communities," the letter warned.
The lawmakers urged HHS to direct the department’s sub-agencies, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to work with local governments and private labs to ensure that racial and ethnic data are being collected. "Decades of structural racism have prevented so many Black and Brown families from accessing quality health care, affordable housing, and financial security, and the coronavirus crisis is blowing these disparities wide open," Warren said in a statement. On Friday, Wisconsin reported that about half of the state's deaths and total cases were in Milwaukee, a city of 600,000 that is more than a third black. All eight people who have died in Milwaukee County were black, and seven of them lived in the city. "The severity of this disease in the African American community is a crisis within a crisis," Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers said.
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