WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) top doctor took questions from Congress on Thursday about the agency’s shortcomings and COVID-19’s impact on at-risk communities.
CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield told Congress the pandemic shines a bright light on the huge gap between the healthcare “haves and have nots.”
“We can and we must lessen the health disparities in this nation,” Redfield said.
California Rep. Barbara Lee said the CDC has been slow to provide information about the pandemic’s impact on minorities.
“How are we going to get the actual data and report quickly, so we can target the federal response?” Lee (D-CA) said.
Redfield took responsibility and placed some blame on an outdated national health data system, which he promised to improve.
“It’s now going to be a requirement for all laboratory tests to be reported to the CDC to include the type of test, the zip code, the racial and ethnic demographics,” Redfield said.
Illinois Rep. Cheri Bustos questioned Redfield about other social factors that spread the disease.
“Can poverty levels put a person at greater risk of COVID-19?” Bustos (D-IL) asked.
Redfield answered yes.
“This is one of the critical public health issues of our time, the social determinants of health,” he said.
Redfield said he worries about accelerating COVID-19’s spread as protesters gather on the streets.
“We really want those individuals to highly consider being evaluated and getting tested,” he said.
Redfield said the public must continue social distancing and wearing masks.
“These actions will allow us to move forward and contain the outbreak,” he said.
Redfield also said the country lacks enough contact tracers, something the CDC is trying to address.