Stabenow, Peters Introduce Legislation to Help Address Reported Racial Disparities in COVID-19 Testing, Treatment, and Outcomes

Thursday, April 16, 2020

U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow (MI) and Gary Peters (MI) introduced a bill this week to help address the reported racial disparities in COVID-19 testing, treatment, and outcomes. The bill would require the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to collect and report racial and other demographic data about the testing, treatment, and outcomes of COVID-19. The Equitable Data Collection and Disclosure on COVID-19 Act of 2020 requires HHS to provide a report to Congress with this data within 60 days after the end of the public health emergency.


Reports show that communities of color have been hit the hardest by COVID-19. The virus has infected African Americans in Michigan at an alarming and disproportionate rate. African Americans account for 33% of confirmed COVID-19 cases and 40% of deaths in Michigan despite making up only 14% of the state’s population.


“I’m heartbroken to see the devastating impact that the COVID-19 outbreak has had on communities of color in Michigan. This is unacceptable and only further highlights our nation’s unequal access to health care and economic opportunity,” said Senator Stabenow. “We need comprehensive information and data to understand this crisis so that we can better protect all Michigan families.”


“The alarming rates of Coronavirus infections and deaths among African Americans in Michigan and across the nation is gut-wrenching,” said Senator Peters, Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. “To effectively combat this disease and ensure federal resources are best allocated, we need more comprehensive demographic data to determine who has Coronavirus, received treatment and passed away. This bill would ensure we have demographic data to help us better understand disparities and can then work to address them.”


This legislation would authorize $50 million in emergency supplemental funding to HHS to collect data on the racial and ethnic impacts of COVID-19. It also establishes a Commission on Ensuring Health Equity During the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency for guidance on how to collect, develop, and analyze racial, tribal, and demographic data for future outbreaks of COVID-19.

The Equitable Data Collection and Disclosure on COVID-19 Act of 2020 would require that the race, ethnicity, sex, age, tribal affiliation, socioeconomic status, disability status, and county of COVID-19 patients be tracked and reported. It would also require that the following be tracked and reported:


  • ­Data related to COVID-19 testing, including the number of individuals tested and the number of tests that were positive;
  • Data related to treatment for COVID-19, including hospitalizations and intensive care unit admissions and duration;
  • Data related to COVID-19 outcomes, including fatalities.


This follows a letter that the Senators sent to Vice President Pence pressing the Trump Administration’s Coronavirus Task Force to release comprehensive data about the racial and ethnic impact of COVID-19. The Senators requested this information to better understand the impact of health inequalities and racial disparities and encouraged the administration to include minority communities in any coronavirus vaccine trials.