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Cuyahoga County releases racial breakdown of COVID-19 cases

Officials worry virus count misses vulnerable
Posted at 7:40 PM, Apr 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-10 20:46:11-04

PARMA, Ohio — Cuyahoga County's Board of Health released a racial breakdown of more than 1,000 COVID-19 cases in Cleveland and the county, but it came with a warning that many of the most vulnerable patients may not be included.

According to health department data, white patients made up 44% of the county's cases. US Census data shows the county's white residents make up about 64% of the population.

Black patients have been 39% of the COVID-19 cases according to the county. Census figures show Blacks represent 31% of the county's residents.

The health department figures show all other races accounted for 7% of cases, while race data for 10% were unknown.

However, the county's medical director stressed limited testing likely skewed the numbers.

"The race and ethnicity data you are going to see today only represent those who have been tested," Dr. Heidi Gullett said. "We are limited in our testing which has big implications, profound implications for understanding the true prevalence or the true amount of infection in our community."

Health officials said because of a shortage of testing, much of it has been reserved for patients already in the hospital along with health care workers and first responders.

"We know that people that need to be tested do not have access to testing," said Romona Brazile, Deputy Director of Prevention and Wellness for the Cuyahoga County Board of Health.

Health officials said a lack of transportation and access to primary care physicians who can order tests are barriers for some in the minority and low-income communities.

That worries Brazile, who pointed out the county's long-standing issues showing minorities are more-likely suffer from chronic diseases. That can make them more vulnerable to the virus.

"Everyone is affected by COVID-19," Brazile said. "But there are some people that are going to be impacted more, so our under-resourced communities are often already living on the edge and emergencies like COVID-19 in many ways push them into crisis."

It's why the health department continues to push for more testing to make sure everyone who needs treatment is able to receive it.

"They are at-risk," said Health Commissioner Terry Allan. "They are at a higher risk because of those challenges that they face that are compounded by poverty."