Secretary of Health and Human Services, Xavier Becerra, renewed the Public Health Emergency (PHE) on July 15th.  Over two-and-a-half years after the initial PHE was enacted, COVID-19 has infected almost one-third (27%) of the people living in the United States and claimed over one million lives. To date, COVID-19 remains highly contagious. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), almost 93% of the counties in the nation are experiencing “high” levels COVID-19 community transition.
In reaction to the pandemic, mandatory reporting of some public health data was introduced including anonymized patient-level data on several COVID-19 indicators included testing, cases, hospitalizations, and deaths.
Some of this data contained patients’ race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic profiles. A recent Office of Inspector General (OIG) report found that these data points for COVID-19 “testing, cases, hospitalizations, and deaths have limitations and provide an incomplete picture of COVID-19 disparities.” Despite the gaps, however, the CDC was able to “supplement and improve these data.” Approaches employed by the CDC include analyzing disparities using additional data sources (“such as emergency department data”) and developing “a methodology to identify disproportionately impacted communities of color using Census data.”
The OIG report emphasized COVID’s “historic impact” on Black, Hispanic or Latino, American Indian or Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander, and Asian communities, as well as those from economically disadvantaged communities. Members of these populations were not only more likely to experience poor health outcomes, but also had higher infection rates, hospitalizations, and deaths compared to members of predominantly White and/or affluent communities.
The OIG recommended that the CDC:
- Expand efforts to improve racial and ethnic data associated with COVID-19 and to supplement them with additional data sources.
- Ensure that Tribal Epidemiology Centers (TECs) have timely access to all public health data to which they are entitled, including clarifying TECs’ authority for States, if needed.
The CDC concurred with both OIG recommendations.
July 21, 2022 – C. St. John
 HHS. Renewal of Determination That A Public Health Emergency Exists. Public Health Emergency. (July 15, 2022). Available at: https://aspr.hhs.gov/legal/PHE/Pages/covid19-15jul2022.aspx
 According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the United States population was estimated on January 1, 2022, to be 332,403, 650. While, as of July 18, 2022, the CDC’s COVID Data Tracker reports the total number of COVID-19 cases to be 89,329,839.
 CDC. COVID Data Tracker. (Update July 18, 2022). Available at: https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#datatracker-home
 CDC. COVID-19 Integrated County View. COVID Data Tracker (Updated July 18, 2022). Available at: https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#county-view?list_select_state=all_states&list_select_county=all_counties&data-type=Risk
 OIG. CDC Found Ways to Use Data to Understand and Address COVID-19 Health Disparities, Despite Challenges with Existing Data. OEI-05-20-00540. (July 13, 2022). Available at: https://oig.hhs.gov/oei/reports/OEI-05-20-00540.asp