City Councilman Herb Wesson called on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Monday to release data on how the coronavirus pandemic is affecting “communities of color.”
In a letter sent to board Chairwoman Kathryn Barger, Wesson wrote that the coronavirus is presenting “many compelling challenges,” including transparency in the reporting of data as to how the pandemic is affecting communities and racial groups.
“This data is critical to the effective deployment of needed resources, and the shaping of public education and communications, particularly in communities of color. It is also vital for the purpose of accountability,” Wesson said.
Wesson specifically requested information on coronavirus death rates by race, the number of tests conducted in those communities as well as the result, the number of people in quarantine and how many people have recovered.
During a midday daily briefing, Barbara Ferrer, the county’s top public health official, said it was proving a challenge to gather such data. About 50% of the relevant forms used to track cases provided no answer to questions about race and ethnicity, she said.
Staffers are going back to review death and medical records to try to get answers.
“We are looking now at the demographic data and I hope by the end of this week, we’ll have a more complete report … (about) who’s getting sick and what else we know about the people who are getting sick,” Ferrer said.
She said she hopes to include information on both mortality and hospitalization rates by race in that report, but it may take longer to generate data on access to testing.
Ferrer said data reported by other jurisdictions has her worried about a higher rate of illness and death — and more limited access to testing — in minority communities.
“My promise to you is as soon as we have that information and we analyze it, it’ll be available for everyone,” Ferrer said. “We care just as much as everyone about making sure that we address head-on any issues around disproportionality. And we are worried based on data that’s shown disproportionality in other places.”
Ferrer also noted that black residents in particular — as well as Native Americans, native Alaskans and native Hawaiians in Los Angeles County — are much more likely to have a higher rate of illness even before factoring in the impact of the coronavirus.
Wesson also requested the information be included in the county Department of Public Health’s daily coronavirus updates.