WASHINGTON — House Democrats slammed federal health officials Wednesday, calling a report on the racial breakdown of cases and deaths from the coronavirus "pitiful" and saying it hurts efforts to target resources to communities of color.
“We deserve to know the facts and have quality analysis,’’ said U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly, a Democrat from Illinois and chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus Health Braintrust. “Once again, they are showing us they just don’t care.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is required under the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act to submit a report to Congress with racial data related to COVID-19, including cases, deaths and hospitalizations.
But Kelly and other lawmakers complained that the recently released four-page report doesn’t provide much new information and doesn’t do enough to show the national impact of disparities in communities of color.
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“This report is not only completely unacceptable, it is a joke,’’ said Rep. Judy Chu, noting that testing is not broken down by race or ethnic group.
Chu, chairwoman of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, said there is information about the hospitalization rates for whites, blacks and Hispanics, but not other groups, including Native Americans and Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
“In the middle of this crisis, time is of the essence,” said Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.
For months, members of congressional caucuses representing communities of color, along with community activists, have called for federal health officials to track and release racial data of people testing positive for the coronavirus and those who died from it.
President Donald Trump vowed earlier this year that the CDC would do just that, but so far only a few states have released racial information.
Early data released by those states and counties show communities of color, including African Americans, Native Americans and Latinos, are dying at a disproportionately higher rate compared with whites.
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Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., said while there has been anecdotal data about the disparity, it's important to have the actual racial breakdown and at the national level.
“This is about saving lives,’’ said Pressley, a member of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform. “When we have a congressional mandate and they provide us with an insulting cut-and-paste hyperlink report, with antiquated hyperlinks at that, it’s infuriating.”
CDC officials said earlier some of data had not been complete and some had not been submitted by states.
They said Wednesday the agency is "leveraging all our available surveillance systems to monitor COVID-19 and protect vulnerable communities."
The agency also said it's working to improve that data, including hospitalizations and mortality.
But Rep. Karen Bass, chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, said the CDC could demand more reliable information from states.
“It is a question of political will and it’s a question of leadership from the top,” said Bass, a Democrat from California.
Follow Deborah Berry on Twitter @dberrygannett