Reporting in works on virus impacts by race, ethnicity

As data from other states begin to paint a picture of racial and ethnic inequities among COVID-19 patients, Massachusetts health officials said Tuesday they will soon begin reporting the incomplete race and ethnicity data they have.

In Boston, public health officials are trying to pay attention to disparities by neighborhood, race, and ethnicity, but are being stymied by incomplete data.

Marty Martinez, the city's chief of health and human services, said Tuesday that Boston has race and ethnicity data for about half of the roughly 2,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases among city residents.

"That data is not complete, but what we do know, and it shouldn't be surprising, is that health disparities exist. Whenever we're looking at a public health issue, we see disparities," Martinez said. "And so the mayor has asked us to make sure that we're looking at that data -- the neighborhood level data, the race, ethnicity data, age and gender -- so that we can see where we need to target our messaging."

Later Tuesday afternoon, Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders said the state will start reporting the race and ethnicity data it has, though it will be incomplete. She said many of the reports the state gets have key fields left blank.

"A lot of the detail that we would want, like race and ethnicity, are often left blank and all you get is the person's name and date of birth," she said, adding that the administration is working to get a more complete picture of how race and ethnicity intersect with the coronavirus.

Late last month, U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley and U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren were among a group of lawmakers who urged the federal government to "make a concerted effort to account for existing racial disparities in health care access and how persistent inequities may exacerbate these disparities in the weeks and months to come."

On MSNBC on Tuesday, Pressley said the lawmakers have gotten no response from the Trump administration.

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