Nonprofits working to get COVID-19 demographic data to better serve communities of color

Several nonprofits have real concern about the access or lack of access their communities have to testing and education on COVID-19.

African Americans, Native Americans, Latinos and advocates of the homeless signed off on a letter to the top leaders of the health department for clearer, demographic data of statewide tests.

Requests for this have been sent to Dr. Cara Christ, head of the Arizona Department of Health Services (AZDHS) and several nonprofits representing minorities want to work with the department to make this possible.

The nonprofits are concerned there is not enough access to testing for communities of color and the hope is that AZDHS can provide the demographic details on all the tests being done.

Charlene Tarver is the chair of Black AZ COVID-19 Task Force and Pamela Bridge is an attorney for Community Legal Services

Together, along with 25 nonprofit organizations and pastors across Arizona, they want to help educate communities of color on the COVID-19 pandemic.

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To do that, Tarver says, “It’s gonna be important that we have data that’s representative of all of our communities. We also wanna see how our data here in Arizona is facing against data for African Americans across the country.”

Requests to the director of AZDHS include extending the testing blitz through at least June 1st.

She'd like for the racial and ethnic demographic data of those tested to form a statewide task force of community members of color to help provide access to testing for their communities.

However, Bridges says less than half of the positive coronavirus cases include racial and ethnic data.

“We don’t know 42% the race, the ethnicity of those who tested positive so without that knowledge how can we really look at the percentages that are out there right now that are being posted," Bridges said.

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With more data, Tarver says it could help add more testing sites in communities of color. “The south Phoenix corridor, I think throughout the valley, we’ve actually talked to a couple of our partners about establishing sites," she said.

The more organizations can get involved means more education for minorities. Tarver says that will build trust.

So far in Arizona, about 56% of COVID-19 deaths are minorities, the AZDHS webstie says. But how accurate is the percentage when every single test isn't identified?

Tarver says the tests arent as accessible for people of color.

"We know that we have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 as a result of being frontline workers and then also as a result of preexisting chronic conditions as well as health and economic equity issues," she explained.

According to the National Agriculture Workers Survey, Latinos account for 54% of farm workers and 32% of janitors and building cleaners.

“So that communities of color who do have long standing histories of distrust when it comes to healthcare are better galvanized, better educated, informed by members of their own community on the value of the testing," she explained.

A formal letter was sent to Dr. Christ Friday. The hope is she will meet with these nonprofits on this issue.