Hospitals in New Jersey are now required to include demographic data when reporting coronavirus information to the state Department of Health.
On April 22, Gov. Phil Murphy signed S2357, a bipartisan bill mandating hospitals report age, gender, ethnicity and race of people who have tested COVID-19 positive or died from the virus.
“Understanding the impact of COVID-19 by demographic group is critical to ensure equity in our response to this virus,” Murphy said. “We must do everything we can to protect the most vulnerable groups in our state during this unprecedented crisis. This data will inform our efforts and allow us to make sure that no one is left behind.”
According to the governor, the Department of Health will publish the updated data online each day until the public health emergency is over. Hospitals must detail the number of people who tried to get treatment, the number of patients admitted and the number who were turned away from getting a coronavirus test.
Black Fatality Rate High
Statewide, coronavirus has disproportionately affected black residents, the governor’s office reported during April 21’s COVID-19 media briefing.
About 22% of New Jersey’s virus-related deaths involve African American patients, though they make up just 14% of the state’s population, according to the state’s data dashboard.
Murphy noted the the African American representation among fatalities is about 50% higher than the state’s population.
“The African American testing number is about consistent with fatalities but the Hispanic number is meaningfully higher,” stated the governor. “That is the first data point we’ve had with some of the reality that our brothers and sisters are dealing with in New York City.”
As of April 23, 99,989 people in New Jersey have contracted COVID-19 and 5,368 have died due to virus-related complications.
Data Used to Battle Outbreak
State Sen. Kristin Corrado (R-40), one of the bill’s primary sponsors, said, “The more demographic information we can gather from our hospitals on infections, the better we can identify, react, study, and prevent new COVID-19 cases in vulnerable populations. Arming our health commissioner with data and case statistics can help match medical care to those at greater risk.”
Corrado’s fellow primary sponsors include State Sens. Ronald Rice and Nia Gill and and Assemblymembers Benjie Wimberly, Verlina Reynolds-Jackson and Nancy Pinkin.
“Without racial demographic data we will have no way to identify and address ongoing disparities and health inequities that risk accelerating the spread of COVID-19,” Gill said. “Inequalities in treatment and diagnosis can have significant and severe impacts on minorities who are already at a higher risk of diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and other chronic illnesses. In order to address these disparities, we must have data on who is being tested, who is being treated, and what the treatment outcomes are.”
Rice said data will help provide a better idea of which hospitals need more funding and resources in order to properly care for minority populations.
“Our country has an incredibly poor history of health care when it comes to the treatment of minorities, especially in the Black community,” he said. “If hospitals have limited funding and decide to pull resources away from sick minorities, this causes all sorts of problems.
U.S. Senator Cory Booker recently introduced legislation requiring the federal government to collect and report demographic data on COVID-19 cases, including information on race and ethnicity.
In a press release, Booker said, “Deep-seated health disparities faced by communities of color in New Jersey and across our nation have been magnified and exacerbated by this public health crisis.”
“The collection of this critical data here in New Jersey will help us better understand the scope of health disparities related to COVID-19 so together we can act to end them,” Booker said.