Pandemics and economic recessions exacerbate disparities that ultimately hurt us all. Therefore, state and local leaders cannot design equitable response and recovery strategies without monitoring COVID’s impacts among socially and economically marginalized groups.¹ Data disaggregation should follow best practices and extend not only to public health data on COVID cases, hospitalizations, and fatalities, but also to: measures of access to testing, treatment, personal protective equipment (PPE), and safe places to isolate when sick; receipt of social and economic supports; and the downstream consequences of COVID on well-being, ranging from housing instability to food insecurity.
Geographic identifiers would allow leaders and the public to understand the interplay between place and social factors, as counties with large black populations account for more than half of all COVID deaths, and rural communities and post-industrial cities generally fare worse in economic downturns. Legal mandates for data disaggregation are proliferating, but 11 states are still not reporting COVID deaths by race; 16 are not reporting by gender; and 26 are not reporting based on congregate living status (e.g., nursing homes, jails). Only three are reporting testing data by race and ethnicity. (These statistics are as of May 2020. For the latest on state reporting, visit the State Health & Value Strategies website.)
While states and cities can do more, the federal government should also support data disaggregation through funding and national standards.
¹ People of color (African-Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans, American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders), women, people living in congregate settings such as nursing homes and jails, people with physical and intellectual disabilities, LGBTQ people, immigrants, and people with limited English proficiency.