ACLU calls on FL to tackle racial inequalities during pandemic and denounce attacks on Asian Americans

Novel coronavirus, which causes COVID-19, is shown here in orange and yellow. Microphotography by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Rocky Mountain Laboratories, which is part of the National Institutes of Health.

The national American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Florida is calling on the state to provide more detailed race, ethnicity and other demographic data related to COVID-19 infections and deaths, following alarming disparities and inequalities as the pandemic continues.

In such southern states such as Louisiana and Mississippi, data show black people dying at “disturbingly disproportionate rates.”

Micah W. Kubic ( picture from ACLU of Kansas)
Micah W. Kubic, executive director of ACLU of Florida. Credit: ACLU of Kansas)

And in Florida, “Black people make up 16 percent of the state’s population but represent 20 percent of COVID-19 deaths in the state,” according to a letter sent Tuesday to Florida Surgeon General Scott Rivkees, from ACLU Florida executive director Micah W. Kubic.

Problematic is that race and ethnicity factors are missing in some of Florida’s data, suggesting that there could be higher percentages of black and Hispanic people dying from the COVID-19 respiratory disease.

The Florida Department of Health has some data, but not a lot — on race. It is included in an online “dashboard” that provides race and ethnicity by county. Another report made public is nearly 500 pages long but shows only a very limited amount of race and ethnicity data.

The ACLU Florida letter also states:

“In order to effectively address the 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.

Without knowing the breadth of how COVID-19 is affecting communities in the state, public health officials, advocates, and affected members of the public will not have the tools necessary to tackle the inequalities this pandemic is exacerbating.

Government entities must also provide adequate protections for all essential workers, especially those most vulnerable to the threat posed by COVID-19, including ensuring the equitable distribution of (personal protective equipment) PPE/ventilators.”

In another letter from Kubic, to Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody, the ACLU expresses grave concern “over the increasing incidents of hate, discrimination, and violence against Asian Americans—a community
of all immigration statuses.

We urge your office to send a public message that attacks against Asian American communities and the scapegoating of Chinese American
community members, in particular, is unacceptable and that Asians are an integral part of U.S. communities.”

Diane Rado
Diane Rado has covered state and local government and public schools in six states over some 30 years, focusing on policy and investigative stories as well as legislative and political reporting. She spent most of her career at the St. Petersburg (Tampa Bay) Times and the Chicago Tribune. She has a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and did a fellowship in education reform at the University of Michigan in 1999-2000. She is married to a journalist and has three adult children.