Sen. Warren Urges CDC to More Accurately Communicate COVID Mortality Risks To the Public & Adjust for Age, Race, and Ethnicity

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The following is a media release from Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s office. She was elected by voters in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to serve the state in Washington DC in the US Senate. She is a Democrat.

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WASHINGTON DC – United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) sent a letter to CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield, requesting that the CDC clarify its public communication about COVID-19 and risks relating to race and ethnicity by including age adjustments in their publications of COVID-19 mortality data. 

“To date, the CDC has not consistently articulated risks and has not provided full and complete information on the degree to which age and race or ethnicity interact to inflate the risk of COVID-19 mortality for communities of color. I ask that the CDC begin including an age adjustment in its publications on COVID-19 mortality among racial and ethnic minorities and more accurately describe COVID-19 racial disparities in its communications, publications, and public statements,” wrote Senator Warren. 

The CDC has identified many inequities in social determinants of health that put racial and ethnic minority groups at increased risk of getting sick and dying from COVID-19.

The agency has also clearly articulated the relationship between age and risks associated with COVID-19, finding that 8 out of 10 COVID-19 deaths have been among Americans over the age of 65. But the CDC has not always properly communicated the interaction of these characteristics, leading to inaccuracies in how the CDC data reflects mortality and illness rates for young Black and Latino Americans.

The CDC has frequently used messaging and infographics about the higher risk of death due to COVID-19 for people of color that do not tell the full story.

One key CDC infographic reported that mortality risk is 2.1 times higher for Black Americans, 1.1 times higher for Latino Americans, 1.4 times higher for American Indian or Alaska Native people, and the same for Asian Americans compared to non-Hispanic white Americans.

However, a recent analysis of COVID-19 mortality data adjusting for differences in age between racial and ethnic groups found significantly wider gaps in the overall mortality. Using this age-adjusted race and ethnicity data, analysts observed mortality rates that were 3.2 times higher for Black Americans, 3.2 times higher for Latino Americans, 3.1 times higher for Native American and Alaska Native people, 2.4 times higher for Pacific Islanders, and 1.2 times higher for Asian Americans compared to non-Hispanic white Americans. 

These higher risks are exacerbated by the fact that the median age of those that contract COVID-19 among communities of color is much younger than that of white Americans who contract the disease, making the disproportionate number of deaths among communities of color all the more disturbing. 

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