Pressure Mounts on Governor Newsom to Collect and Release COVID-19 Demographic Data

The ACLU and 60+ Organizations Demand Transparency on Racial Disparities During Pandemic

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SACRAMENTO — Today, the ACLU of California, in partnership with a coalition of over 60 organizations, called on Governor Gavin Newsom and top state department health officials to collect and provide critical race and demographic data associated with COVID-19 testing, positive cases, hospitalizations, and deaths. The letter also calls for the equitable distribution of personal protective gear and medical equipment to hospitals that are under-resourced and have the greatest need. These demands are part of a national effort undertaken by 13 ACLU affiliates to gain transparency on COVID-19 infections and outcomes by race.

The coalition, which includes racial justice leaders, public health advocates, environmental scientists, and grassroots organizations led by people from communities that are most impacted by the virus, urged the state to put into place a detailed, standardized model that counties and cities can follow. Along with race and ethnicity, states should collect and disseminate data broken down by geographic location, gender identity, primary language, disability status, housing status, socioeconomic status and whether or not the person is an essential worker. These efforts should be consistent with existing privacy laws and the California constitution.

The limited data that the California Department of Public Health has released shows that Black people make up 12% of COVID-19 deaths, even though they comprise 6% of the state’s population. The data aggregated at the state level does not include racial demographic data on testing, which early reports indicate is less accessible to non-affluent communities and people with limited English proficiency.

“Every day without the full picture is another day where more lives are put at risk. Without data, there is no transparency, and there is no accountability,” said Abre’ Conner, staff attorney at the ACLU Foundation of Northern California. “What we’ve seen so far shows that due to years of systemic racism and discrimination, Black people and other people of color are disproportionately under-resourced, underinsured, and have much higher rates of pre-existing conditions.”

"We appreciate the tireless work of our state’s leaders, officials, and frontline workers to address the impacts of COVID-19, but we cannot ignore that barriers like race and language impede access to critical services like testing and healthcare. To address these disparities, we need demographic data highlighting the challenges our Black, Native American, immigrant, LGBTQ and other vulnerable communities are facing,” said Hammad Alam, staff attorney at Asian Americans Advancing Justice. “California’s leaders have often stated they serve all Californians. We need them to be true to that promise.”

“The data that has been released so far is clumped together, and not nearly comprehensive or localized enough to give us a sense of what’s actually happening in vulnerable communities,” said Luis Ojeda, organizer at the ACLU Foundation of Northern California. “The Governor must be transparent and forthcoming with the public so that we can direct resources to where they’re most needed.”   

Link to April 21 Letter:

Link to Press Release from ACLU National:

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