ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) -- COVID-19 case data suggests minority populations are at a greater risk of contracting the novel coronavirus in the St Louis region, based on what information has been released by local officials, like cases by zip code, and combined with national numbers.
But information at a local level has been hard to come by.
After a spike in coronavirus cases and deaths in St. Louis County, Executive Sam Page confirmed their data shows a disproportionate amount of cases in minority communities.
“It is a factual statement to say that it has [had a bigger impact on minority communities] to date and we expect it to continue to do so,” Page said.
But the president of the St. Louis NAACP, Adolphus Pruitt, would like to know the actual numbers.
“More data is better than less data anytime you are dealing with issues like this,” he said.
News 4 asked the St. Louis County Medical Examiner’s Office for a breakdown of deaths by race but was told COVID-19 cases, once diagnosed, are considered a natural cause of death so the information isn’t shared with their office. Although the county hasn’t released data by race, they do know some of the numbers.
“We have some of that,” Page said. “We will produce it as soon as we get it organized.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control, public health departments report COVID-19 cases using a standardized form, which does ask for race. But the CDC said unfortunately, those forms are often missing important data- including race.
In St. Louis County, Page says 40 percent of those tested don’t provide that information, and the county cannot compel them to.
“I can’t make someone tell me something they don’t want to tell me, and I can’t make a testing center that I don’t control report information they choose not to collect,” he said.
However, Pruitt said the information could be critical when it comes to saving lives.
“The most important reason we need to know it is to understand where hot spots are who to target for treatment the most,” he said.
Page added that disparities in health care access contributes to the numbers, and that’s why they are focused on minority communities even without all the data being released to the public.
“As soon as we can get that collected we will report it. I don’t want people to believe we aren’t making decisions based on what we already know,” he said. “We already know minority communities are disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.”