Stephen Thomas
April 13, 2020

Stephen Thomas explained to NBC News that data is crucial to ensure that public health interventions are working for everyone, but right now, we don't have enough racial and ethnic data on COVID-19 infections and deaths. 

The underlying conditions that are often listed as risk factors for coronavirus complications include heart disease, diabetes and asthma, which are the "very diseases that black folks and brown folks have been dying from, even before COVID-19," Thomas said. "And so to see the data come out with absolutely no reference to racial or ethnic breakdowns has given me pause."

Thomas said that if black people aren't being tested, and Latinos are afraid to go to test sites because of fear of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), then we have people walking around infected without knowing it. 

"It's not only the message but the messenger" that's important, Thomas said. "And for certain groups, in particular African Americans and other groups that have historically been discriminated against simply because of who they are, we need to tailor the message to them."

Thomas explained that state and federal agencies need to do a better job of documenting and addressing potential racial disparities. 

"I'm glad that we're all in this together," said Thomas. "But when we're all in this together, the dominant culture doesn't see a reason to talk about different racial and ethnic groups. It's just not even on the radar screen." 

Related Links

NBC News: African Americans may be dying from COVID-19 at a higher rate. Better data is essential, experts say.

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Stephen B. Thomas