The ACLU of Massachusetts today renewed calls for an equitable COVID-19 response, including collecting race and ethnicity data on testing and treatment. It is crucial that the state government do everything in its power to ensure equitable access to testing and treatment during this pandemic, wrote the ACLU of Massachusetts in a letter released today.
“The cumulative effect of racial disparities in health care, the criminal legal system, the workforce, among other areas, makes the threat posed by COVID-19 particularly dangerous and urgent for Black and brown communities nationwide,” said Carol Rose, executive director of the ACLU of Massachusetts. “Massachusetts can lead the nation in protecting public health while also ensuring that our statewide response takes into account these existing disparities and protects the health and safety of all people.”
The ACLU—together with the Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation at Harvard Law School—calls on the Baker administration to respond to recommendations put forth by U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley, and public health experts to collect data to make it possible to discern whether there are racial disparities in access to COVID-19 testing in communities.
The letter also calls on the Baker administration to consider equity when determining which hospitals and regions receive personal protective equipment and other resources. To the extent that regional need will be determined by testing, the administration must ensure that test kits are equitably distributed.
“Equity, privacy, and health care interests are aligned when it comes to what is required of a sound public health response to COVID-19 here in the Commonwealth,” said Robert Greenwald, Clinical Professor of Law at Harvard Law School and the faculty director of the Law School’s Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation. “We must have access to information showing which communities and groups are hardest hit by this virus, so we can implement equitable response measures and effectively distribute scarce resources. This is an important step towards that goal.”
Early data reveals that disproportionate numbers of Black people are dying from COVID-19. For example, while Black people make up only 26 percent of the population of Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, nearly half of all people who have tested positive for COVID-19 there are Black, and Black people represent over 80 percent of deaths. Black people are also disproportionately getting sick and dying in Michigan, Louisiana, Illinois, and North Carolina.