The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Alaska is urging state leaders to improve the collection and reporting of aggregated race, ethnicity, and other demographic data of COVID-19 infections and deaths after several states revealed disturbingly dipropionate rates of death for Black individuals.

In collaboration with ACLU offices across the country, the ACLU of Alaska sent a letter to Governor Michael Dunleavy and Department of Health and Social Services Commissioner Adam Crum, urging them to collect and reveal data that would provide a clearer picture of COVID-19’s impact on Alaska.

Currently, Alaska is among at least 26 states, and Washington D.C., that have begun releasing racial breakdowns of COVID-19 infections and deaths, and the data have shown that by and large, Black people are dying at disproportionate rates. Additionally, existing health disparities, and other social and economic inequalities make black, brown, and indigenous people particularly vulnerable to contracting and dying of COVID-19. Alaska’s data, however, show considerable gaps in demographic information that obscure an important understanding of COVID-19’s effect on Alaskans across the state.

Given the vast disparities across the country, it is likely that Black people, Alaska Native people, and other communities of color are disproportionately impacted in Alaska as well,” ACLU of Alaska Policy Director Triada Stampas wrote. “In order to effectively address this pandemic and direct resources where they are most needed, government officials and entities must standardize, collect, and release race and ethnicity data surrounding COVID-19.”

Gaps in Alaska data

  • Ethnicity data (Hispanic/non-Hispanic) is “unknown” for nearly one-third (32.1 percent) of COVID-19 cases and 44.4 percent of COVID-19 deaths; and
  • Race data is “unknown” for approximately one-fourth (24.3 percent) of COVID-19 cases and 22.2 percent of COVID-19 deaths.

“Racial disparities in health care, policing and incarceration, and who holds ‘essential’ jobs, are among factors that make people of color among the most vulnerable to the COVID-19 pandemic,” ReNika Moore, Director of the Racial Justice Program at the ACLU said.  “We have to address this pandemic through a racial justice lens, including by collecting and reporting accurate data on rates of infection and outcomes by race. We must take action to protect those most vulnerable.