Shelby County to release race data on COVID-19

Shelby County to release race and ethnicity data on COVID-19 cases this Week

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - This week, Shelby County could begin releasing information that shows how COVID-19 has impacted communities of color.

Right now, only a handful of states and local governments are providing any of that information.

On Tuesday, Arkansas and Mississippi released some of this information.

Tracking race, ethnicity of COVID-19 positive patients in Shelby Co.

Doctors and health experts say this information is important to have.

COVID-19 could be hitting communities of color, in particular, African-Americans, disproportionately hard nationwide. That’s what a group of hundreds of doctors said in a letter to the U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar.

The doctors are calling on the CDC to release information that shows a race and ethnicity breakdown of COVID-19 cases.

Kimberly Brown, a Memphis emergency physician, signed that letter. She says communities of color – black, Hispanic and Native American – are at greater risk of developing complications from COVID-19.

“We are disproportionately affected by chronic disease, and we are finding that patients with chronic disease are more at risk of unfortunately passing away from COVID-19,” said Brown.

Of the state and local communities that have released information, it shows African-Americans are being infected and dying at higher rates than their white counterparts.

For instance, while blacks make up 30 percent of the population of Chicago, they account for 70 percent of the cases.

Brown says this is important to know in order to develop treatment plans.

“We can figure out again where hot spots are, so where patients are possibly concentrated and maybe there’s something else in that environment which are causing people to get the virus,” said Brown.

On Tuesday, Alisa Haushalter, Shelby County Health Department director, said the county is working to gather information that shows the race of the people who’ve died.

“Unfortunately, much of our race data has been missing for a variety of reasons. That’s one of the pieces of data that’s not necessarily on the report, the report that comes from the health care provider or the lab,” said Haushalter.

She says that information should be released this week.

Late Tuesday afternoon, Arkansas and Mississippi released information about COVID-19’s impact on African-Americans.

Arkansas officials say 23 percent of the people infected there are black. According to the U.S. Census, African-Americans make up 15 percent of Arkansas’ population.

Mississippi health officials say African-Americans account for a little more than half of the coronavirus cases in that state. According to the U.S. Census, African-Americans make up 37 percent of Mississippi’s population.

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