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CDC Director Robert Redfield on Thursday apologized for his agency’s “inadequate” reporting on racial disparities in coronavirus patients, addressing criticism that the lack of data has hampered the public health response in communities of color disproportionately affected by the virus.
“I want to apologize for the inadequacy of our response,” Redfield said during a House Appropriations subcommittee hearing on Thursday, held amid nationwide demonstrations over racial injustices following the death of George Floyd in police custody last week.
Congress in its last relief package in April required the CDC to report data on racial disparities among coronavirus cases, deaths and hospitalizations after it became apparent the disease was killing and sickening members of minority groups at higher rates. A four-page report the agency released last week was ripped by lawmakers who said it included outdated and incomplete information. The CDC has said its information is lacking because some states haven't been reporting such data.
“The CDC and the Trump administration did not complete the assignment at all,” Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) said during the hearing.
HHS on Thursday said it will begin requiring all lab tests reported to the CDC to include information on a patient’s race, ethnicity, age and ZIP code. Redfield cautioned lawmakers that a second congressionally mandated report on coronavirus disparities due later this month may still be missing sought-after information, but he said his agency would submit "whatever data I have."
Lawmakers and Redfield throughout the hearing acknowledged persistent racial disparities in the health care system that are playing out amid the pandemic, underscoring the need for data to address the gaps in care.