CDC boss apologizes for 'inadequate' race-based coronavirus data

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield apologized Thursday for the health agency's lack of reporting on the racial disparities in COVID-19 patients, making it difficult to allocate resources to minority communities hit hard by the pandemic.

"I personally want to apologize for the inadequacy of our response," Redfield said during a House Appropriations subcommittee hearing on the federal government's coronavirus response.

Many Democrats and community leaders in several cities have voiced concerns over the African American death rate in connection to the coronavirus, which they view as a trend that outpaces other racial groups and the lack of race-specific data of the victims.

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Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, testifies Thursday at a Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee hearing about the COVID-19 response on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Tasos Katopodis/Pool via AP)

Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, testifies Thursday at a Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee hearing about the COVID-19 response on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Tasos Katopodis/Pool via AP)

In an effort to compile such data, an April coronavirus relief package -- the PPP and Health Care Enhancement Act -- mandated the CDC provide a report on the racial and socioeconomic disparities of the virus.

"It contained no new insight and what it did was just link to websites of data that was outdated and it was very limited on testing and demographics," Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., said of the four-page report presented to lawmakers last week. "In short, the CDC and the Trump administration did not complete the assignment at all."

The issue of racial disparities amid the pandemic comes as the nation has been gripped by widespread demonstrations over the death of George Floyd, a black man who died while in police custody in Minneapolis last month. Nationwide protests have erupted over racial injustice and police brutality over the past week.

Redfield expressed concerns over the mass gatherings in which thousands have defied social distancing measures and suggested that protesters get tested to prevent infecting others.

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"I do think there is a potential, unfortunately, for this to be a seeding event,” he told Rep. Lois Frankel, D-Fla.

In an attempt to gather demographic data, the Department of Health and Human Services is now requiring laboratories to collect data pertaining to the race, ethnicity, age and zip code of patients when reporting COVID-19 testing results to the CDC.