The Baltimore city council introduced a bill requiring the city’s commissioner to report patients’ races and zip codes in order to address potential disparities in the city’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Baltimore City Council President Brandon Scott told The Baltimore Sun that the information is necessary to ensure resources are directed to communities that need them since the city remains highly segregated and life expectancy tends to vary by a person’s neighborhood.
Scott and the city’s council members join dozens of Maryland lawmakers that have requested a racial breakdown of coronavirus patients in recent days. Maryland State Del. Nick Mosby, a Democrat who is running to replace Scott as Baltimore City Council president, called for such data to be made available last month in order to tackle “health disparities in communities of color.” Eighty state lawmakers have also urged Maryland’s health department to release the data.
Black people in the U.S. tend to have higher rates of underlying health conditions, including asthma and diabetes, that could put them at a greater risk of complications from the virus.
U.S. cities with large black and brown populations such as Chicago, Detroit, Milwaukee and New Orleans have also emerged as hot spots of the coronavirus outbreak. In Baltimore, about 62% of the population is black, according to U.S. Census data.
A spokesman for Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, Mike Ricci, said last week they are seeking to get patients’ racial data from testing sites. Public data already offers information on a patients’ gender, age, and county.
Other cities released early data Monday showing black people were disproportionately affected by the outbreak. Black residents in Chicago accounted for 72% of deaths from COVID-19 complications in the city and 52% of positive tests for the coronavirus, despite making up only 30% of the city’s population, according to the city’s public health agency.