Demographic Data Should Include COVID-19 Testing, Infections, and Deaths

ATLANTA  — The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and 13 ACLU state  affiliates sent letters to state officials and state departments of health across the country urging them to collect and release aggregate race, ethnicity, and other demographic data of COVID-19 testing, infections and deaths, to the extent consistent with privacy laws. The letter also calls for the equitable distribution of personal protective and medical equipment.

Along with the letters to state and local officials, the ACLU also sent a letter to the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) calling on the office to include aggregate demographic information in its daily reporting of COVID-19 cases within federal facilities - including age, race, ethnicity, religion, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, and disability - for incarcerated persons and staff who have contracted, recovered, and died from COVID-19.

Affiliates that sent letters to state officials include the ACLU of Alaska, ACLU of Arizona, ACLU of Florida, ACLU of Georgia,  ACLU of Maine, ACLU of Massachusetts, ACLU of Minnesota,  ACLU of New Hampshire, ACLU of Northern California, ACLU of San Diego &Imperial Counties, ACLU of Virginia, and the ACLU of Washington.

As other jurisdictions begin to release demographic data of COVID-19 infections, it is becoming increasingly urgent to identify communities that are in particular need of support. As of last Friday, 34 states and D.C. have shared racial breakdowns of COVID-19 infections, and 26 states and D.C. share breakdowns of COVID-19 deaths. The data has shown that, by and large, Black people are dying at disproportionate rates.

“Racial disparities in health care, policing and incarceration, and who holds ‘essential’ jobs, are among factors that make people of color among the most vulnerable to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said ReNika Moore, Director of the Racial Justice Program at the ACLU. “We have to address this pandemic through a racial justice lens, including collecting and reporting accurate data on testing, rates of infection, and outcomes by race. We must take action to protect those most vulnerable.

“Georgia’s response to COVID-19 must be guided by data and science. Absent accurate data on the impacted communities, the State will continue to make policy decisions that fail to meet the needs of Black communities and other communities of color in Georgia. Actions can and must be taken, now, to mitigate the vulnerability minority communities to COVID-19,” said Andrea Young, executive director of the ACLU of Georgia.

In both letters, the ACLU is calling on federal and state officials to standardize, collect, and release aggregate demographic data of COVID-19 testing, infections, and deaths in order for government entities to effectively address this pandemic, direct resources where they are most needed, and better protect all communities. 

The link to the Federal Bureau of Prison letter can be found here.