Washington, DC. – U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) joined Senators Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Ben Cardin (D-MD) in introducing the COVID-19 Health Disparities Action Act of 2020, legislation that would require the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to develop an action plan to address the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 among communities of color. The bill would also provide grants to ensure that contact tracing efforts are culturally competent and support the development of public awareness campaigns to address health disparities in racial and ethnic groups, rural regions, and other vulnerable populations.
“Growing data on COVID-19 is making one thing clear: communities of color are being disproportionately affected by this pandemic. Many are frontline workers who don’t have the luxury of working from home and for those who live in multigenerational homes, social distancing is nearly impossible. We cannot hope to get ahead of the curve without addressing the racial inequities that exist in how COVID-19 spreads and how we respond. This bill does exactly that by developing a different approach to COVID-19 to address the health disparities that exist in our communities.”
The New York Times’ recent analysis of CDC data found that African Americans and Latinos are significantly more likely to contract and die from COVID-19 compared to white individuals. Native American and Asian American communities also face health disparities related to COVID-19.
In Clark County, 1 in 5 COVID-19 patients is African American, even though African Americans account for only 1 of every 10 Las Vegans. Additionally, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are experiencing a higher fatality rate in Clark County, with a rate 2.5 times higher than their share of the population.
The COVID-19 Health Disparities Action Act of 2020 would:
- Ensure that future contact-tracing efforts funded by the CARES Act are tailored to communities’ racial and ethnic diversity.
- Require HHS to develop an action plan to address the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 among racial and ethnic groups, rural communities, and other vulnerable populations.
- Require states to revise their testing plans to address disparities affecting racial and ethnic groups, rural communities, and other vulnerable populations disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.
- Fund culturally competent and multilingual public awareness campaigns about COVID-19 symptoms, testing, treatments, and, when applicable, vaccines.