State Rep. Leslie Herod Wants Colorado To Start Looking For Racial Disparities In Coronavirus Outcomes

OIS State Rep. Leslie Herod
Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
State Rep. Leslie Herod

Democratic state Rep. Leslie Herod wants Colorado to publicly release data on the race of those who test positive for COVID-19 and need hospitalization, as figures in other states have shown a wide disparity in outcomes between white patients and people of color.

“We have seen across the board in other cities that African Americans in particular have been disproportionately impacted,” Herod said. "(Both) the number of folks who have been in ICU and the folks who have died. And so I want to know what Colorado's numbers are.”

Herod said she doesn’t believe people of color are inherently more vulnerable to the virus, but that the socio-economic disparities are to blame. 

“They're more likely to be in low wage jobs They're more likely to be in positions where they don't have the option of staying home,” she said. “And we have health disparities that combined, make a very bad situation worse. For instance, I have asthma. African Americans have higher rates of asthma, higher rates of respiratory illness.” 

So far, Colorado has not been reporting information about the race of COVID-19 patients and fatalities, but the state said it’s working with hospitals, health care providers, and others who report COVID-19 cases into the state’s databases to try to come up with reliable data. 

“We do ask for information on race and ethnicity, but they’re only reporting it about 30 percent of the time,” said a spokesman for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

It will require further analysis to know whether that slice of cases can provide any useful data. There’s no set timeline for when that information will be available.

The racial disparity between different ethnicities has emerged as a disturbing trend in the pandemic in recent weeks. In a White House Briefing Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said death rates and intensive-care intubations were higher among African Americans because of a greater prevalence of "underlying medical conditions — the diabetes, the hypertension, the obesity, the asthma."

Herod said that data will be critical as Colorado prepares for its recovery.

“Without the data we can’t do our work. It’s imperative we understand who is impacted,” Herod said.