BOSTON (WHDH) - Massachusetts will begin collecting information on the race and ethnicity of patients being tested for coronavirus.
Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders announced Wednesday that the state is requiring the dozens of labs conducting tests to gather the information.
“Obtaining racial and ethnic data on cases of COVID-19 is crucial for examining where and on whom the burden of illness and death is falling,” she said.
Increasing reports from states around the country that coronavirus patients are disproportionately African-American and Latino.
Doctors working on the front line at Massachusetts General Hospital have corroborated this finding.
“We know that about 35 percent of in-patient COVID-positive patients are currently in need of Spanish interpretation,” Emergency Room physician Dr. Wendy Macias-Konstantopoulos said.
At the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center says it’s COVID patients are also disproportionately Latino.
“My reaction is sadness but also, not surprised,” President and CEO Many Lopes said. “The health disparities in these communities have existed for a long time and this virus does not discriminate.”
Ayanna Pressley is among some members of Congress who’ve sent a letter asking the nation’s Health and Human Services Secretary to collect racial and ethnic demographic data on coronavirus testing and patients.
“We need this to be standardized across the board because it will directly inform how we coordinate and marshal resources,” she told MSNBC. “We know that which gets measured gets done. It will give us assurances that access to testing and treatment is equitable.”
Dr. Macias-Konstantopoulos agrees that the collection of this type of data is crucial because according to her, the playing field is not level for many people of color who are at a higher risk.
“A lot of these individuals are individuals of low socioeconomic means. They do not have the privilege of being able to stay at home and work remotely. They do not have the luxury of not being able to go to work,” she explained. “They’re still taking public transportation.”
Sudders said the data will be included in the public daily updates on the spread of the disease. She cautioned the data may be incomplete, either because those conducting the tests could not determine race or identity or those being tested declined to offer the information.
The Boston Public Health Commission said they also plan to begin collecting racial and ethnic demographic data on coronavirus patients soon and make that information public.
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