Equitable testing and care for COVID-19 begins with knowledge

People of color are disproportionately becoming infected and dying from COVID-19. That’s a tragedy and an injustice.

In New York City alone, death rates from COVID-19 among Black people were 100 percent higher than those among white people. Deaths among Hispanic/Latino people were nearly 70 percent higher than for white people, according to a recent article in The Lancet Respiratory Medicine.

Preventing COVID-19 deaths begins with equitable access to testing. Right now, it’s unclear how most states and cities are performing in ensuring that testing is available to all who need it. As of this posting, only four states are releasing COVID-19 testing data by race—Nevada, Kansas, Illinois, and Delaware— as documented by Johns Hopkins University. Although African Americans are 13 percent of the population in the data gathered from the three most populous states in the group, they account for 34 percent of deaths from COVID-19 in those states, according to Dr. Lisa Cooper, Director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Equity. Both health and socio-economic factors seem to be underlying causes, as described by Dr. Cooper.

When the New York Post analyzed testing data by 30 zip codes, neighborhoods with the highest per capita testing rates were either whiter or wealthier—or both—than the city’s average population.

If we’re going to ensure that testing is available to everyone who needs it, we’ve got to track access to testing across every demographic group. Some reports from commercial labs are missing up to 40 percent of demographic information, according to Janet Hamilton, Senior Director of Policy and Science at the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists, as reported in Politico.

Better data drives equitable care

Improving access to COVID-19 testing requires overcoming many financial and logistical challenges. And with Verato, data doesn’t have to be a challenge.

Using Verato Enrich, a city, state, or county can more easily analyze and document if testing initiatives are equitable and widespread. For each person tested, Verato Enrich can link in-common records and provide any missing demographic data, including race and ethnicity. Verato Enrich for Public Health relies on a national reference database of identities, spanning the entire U.S. population, so data is comprehensive and accurate.

By combining more complete information with testing data, public health teams can promptly analyze data, begin contact tracing, and coordinate care.

These strategies would save lives, but taking the right action depends on data, insight, and knowledge. One thing is certain. We can do better.