Jun 4, 2020 - Health

HHS requests data on race and ethnicity with coronavirus test results

A nurse writes on a clear whiteboard

A nurse writes a note as a team of doctors and nurses performs a procedure on a coronavirus patient in the Regional Medical Center on May 21 in San Jose, California. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The Department of Health and Human Services moved on Thursday to require that an individual's race, ethnicity, age and sex be submitted to the agency with novel coronavirus test results.

Why it matters: Some cities and states have reported the virus is killing black people at disproportionately high rates. There are gaps in the national picture of how many people of color are affected, since the data has not been a requirement for states to collect or disclose.

The big picture: Health officials have outlined why people of color face heightened coronavirus risks in the U.S., including chronic health conditions and the effects of economic inequality, such as multigenerational housing.

  • Patient demographics must be provided to the agency with all tests results, which includes patients who may have died from the virus or another condition, an HHS spokesperson told Axios.

What they're saying: "The requirement to include demographic data like race, ethnicity, age, and sex will enable us to ensure that all groups have equitable access to testing, and allow us to accurately determine the burden of infection on vulnerable groups," Assistant Secretary of Health Adm. Brett Giroir, the official leading the federal government's coronavirus testing response, said in a statement.

  • "With these data we will be able to improve decision-making and better prevent or mitigate further illnesses among Americans," he said.

Go deeper: Coronavirus hits poor, minority communities harder

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