Urgent and Comprehensive COVID-19 Demographic Data Sought

COVID-19 drive-up testing site at Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science campus in Willowbrook. Photo by Michael Owen Baker/Los Angeles County

As the Board of Supervisors approved a motion to examine demographic data related to COVID-19, they also approved an amendment by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas to immediately start efforts to expand the range of the data that would be collected, and to accelerate the timeline for analyzing it.

Supervisor Hilda Solis and Chair Kathryn Barger’s motion to collect full racial and ethnic data, including a breakdown by age groups and socioeconomic status, originally called for a report to the Board within 30 days.

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas’ amending motion directed the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (DPH) to immediately begin collecting data across all testing sites, with weekly updates.
The first report is expected in 14 days.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas participating in the April 14, 2020 Board of Supervisors meeting. Photo by Aurelia Ventura/Board of Supervisors

“It is critical that Los Angeles County collect comprehensive data at all points of intervention, including testing, gathering of results, and treatment,” he said. “We must have real-time demographic and socioeconomic data so that we can identify particularly vulnerable populations and allocate resources where they are needed most.”

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas also asked that DPH’s Center for Health Equity be involved to ensure that the data is appropriately contextualized in terms of health equity and justice. Finally, he called for strengthening LA County’s partnerships with academic and community organizations to help guide the analysis.

In an April 8 letter to Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas wrote, “As one of the most diverse counties in the country, we know that COVID-19 does not discriminate along ethnic or community lines. But it appears that the same social and economic determinants that have driven health disparities for generations — such as access to food, housing, education and health services — have only exacerbated the existing challenges in prevention, testing, and treatment of COVID-19 among vulnerable populations.”

“As you know, this information is vital to ensuring that our resources are not only appropriately and equitably distributed, but also tailored to serve the communities most in need. Consistent with DPH’s vision for the Center for Health Equity, I am certain that this data can inform our long-term strategies to minimize health disparities during and after this immediate crisis.”

A COVID-19 drive-up testing site at the Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science in Willowbrook became the first in LA County to collect detailed demographic data from its inception.

“The State and County’s support for data collection and analysis efforts to determine the novel coronavirus’ effect on diverse communities across LA County cannot be understated, given the tremendous impact of the virus on African American and other communities of color,” said CDU President and CEO Dr. David M. Carlisle. “Indeed, the stakes are too high not to collect this data to inform public health interventions and health policy.”

“In order to provide effective prevention strategies and clinical advice, and to better understand the impact of COVID-19 on communities of color, it is critical for LA County to have testing data by race and ethnicity,” said Dr. Deborah Prothrow-Stith, Dean of CDU’S College of Medicine. “The County can also benefit from the expertise of its academic partners, especially those located in and dedicated to serving the County’s under-resourced communities of color. African Americans are over represented among those dying from COVID-19, which demands dedicated attention and resources.”

COVID-19 drive-up testing site at Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science campus in Willowbrook. Photo by Aurelia Ventura/Board of Supervisors