California plans to collect more data on the ethnicity of coronavirus patients after recording a disproportionate increase in infections among Latinos, the state health secretary announced on Tuesday.
There's been a "significant increase" of COVID-19 cases among California's Latino population since May, Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said in announcing the plans.
Ghaly, during a COVID-19 briefing, said Latinos made up about 47% of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the state in May, but now now make up more than half of confirmed cases.
Labs and providers that collect COVID-19 tests will be asked to collect information on race, ethnicity and gender identity and provide it directly to the California Department of Public Health, he said.
Currently, one third of coronavirus cases reported to the state's health department of public health contain no information about a person's race or ethnicity.
"We need that to improve, so that we have a better sense of where transmission is happening, which communities are impacted and what the magnitude of that impact is," Ghaly said.
At the same briefing, Ghaly announced the state would begin to gather data on the sexual orientation of coronavirus patients. The policy is intended to provide a better picture of how the pandemic is affecting California's LGBTQ community.
Although Latinos and whites make up similar population percentages in the state, at 39% and 37%, respectively, the racial disparity among COVID-19 cases and deaths is stark.
Latinos account for 56% of COVID-19 cases and 46% of COVID-19 deaths, compared to whites who make up 18% of cases and 30% of deaths, according to data from the state's health department of public health.
Latino adults in California make up 54.8% of cases among people ages 18 or over, compared to 18.4% of white adults.
Latino children also are over-represented among Californians under age 17 who have tested positive for coronavirus. They are 68% percent positive cases among children.
Health experts and advocates have attributed the virus' disproportionate toll on Latino communities to a variety of factors, like barriers that prevent some from accessing healthcare, a higher likelihood of living in multi-generational households and working in professions considered essential that cannot be accomplished at home.
State efforts are currently focused on the hard-hit Central Valley, where the virus is spreading among Latinos and essential workers who work the type of jobs that can't be done from home or where social distancing isn't possible. Gov. Gavin Newsom announced on Monday that he was sending three coronavirus strike teams and $52 million in federal money to the region.
The region is experiencing increasing rates of hospitalization, use of ventilators and intensive care units in 45 hospitals in the eight counties that make up Central Valley, according to Ghaly.
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Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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