PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Progress has been made, but there’s work to go. That’s the message from researchers who said Pennsylvania is one of many states that needs to do better when it comes to reporting race and ethnicity for COVID-19 deaths.
This new research looked back to April when the pandemic was still spreading nationwide. Now three months later, a Pitt School of Medicine professor said our state has shown a huge improvement in racial and ethnic reporting of COVID-19 deaths.
“We looked at publicly available data at the end of April and showed these really stark differences in mortality related to COVID-19 by race and ethnicity,” said Assistant Professor of Medicine at Pitt Dr. Utibe Essien.
In Pennsylvania, a map from April shows 40 percent of data pertaining to race and ethnicity was missing among COVID-19 deaths. However, Dr. Utibe Essien said the numbers have dropped by half, between 20 to 30 percent.
The Pennsylvania Department of Health said Governor Tom Wolf called for mandatory reporting of race and ethnicity data for COVID-19 cases at the end of April due to these disparities and the numbers have gotten better.
However, why the disparities in the reporting of this information?
“A patients rolls into the emergency department sick, needs to have a breathing tube down their throat, collecting clear information about race and ethnicity is usually not a top priority,” said Essien.
Dr. Essien said it’s so important to gather this data so researchers know how to tackle the virus.
“I think just having patients feel comfortable first of all in collection of data,” said Dr. Essien. “Being able to deliver resources whether it’s testing or treatments to communities most affected is really important with knowing this data and also being able to help guide and distribute vaccinations in these communities is going to be critical.”
The State Department of Health said in order to ensure that race and ethnicity are continually being reported when it comes to COVID-19 deaths, it will continue having conversations with public health and laboratory staff. The health department said it’s also conducting investigations and working with various partners to make sure this information is being tracked.