Governor requires hospitals to report COVID-19 patient demographic data to the NJ Department of Health

Gov. Phil Murphy toured a pair of pop-up hospital sites in Essex and Bergen County on Wednesday. Press pool photo by Michael Karas of northjersey.com.

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy Wednesday signed legislation that requires hospitals to report COVID-10 patient demographic data to the Department of Health.

“Understanding the impact of COVID-19 by demographic group is critical to ensure equity in our response to this virus,” Murphy said in a press statement. “We must do everything we can to protect the most vulnerable groups in our state during this unprecedented crisis. This data will inform our efforts and allow us to make sure that no one is left behind.”

The law requires hospitals to report demographic data including the age, ethnicity, gender, and race of patients who have tested positive for COVID-19, who have died from COVID-19, or who have tried to get testing but have been turned away.

In New Jersey, the racial breakdown for COVID-19 related deaths is as follows: 49.3% white, 22% black, 17.2% Hispanic, 5.4% Asian, and 6.1% other.

“Our country has an incredibly poor history of health care when it comes to the treatment of minorities, especially in the black community,” said New Jersey Senator Ronald Rice, one of the sponsors of the bill. “If hospitals have limited funding and decide to pull resources away from sick minorities, this causes all sorts of problems. Collecting and then receiving this data will allow for us to know which hospitals need more funding and resources in order to properly care for our minority populations.”

Senator Nia Gill, another bill sponsor, said that without racial demographic data, the state can’t identify and address disparities related to diagnosing and treating COVID-19 patients. “Inequalities in treatment and diagnosis can have significant and severe impacts on minorities who are already at a higher risk of diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and other chronic illnesses,” Gill said in a press statement. “In order to address these disparities, we must have data on who is being tested, who is being treated, and what the treatment outcomes are.”

U.S. Senator Cory Booker recently introduced legislation that would require the federal government to collect and report demographic data on COVID-19 cases, including data on race and ethnicity.

“We have a solemn obligation to protect every New Jerseyan from the coronavirus. This means we can’t leave anyone behind,” Booker said in a statement. “Deep-seated health disparities faced by communities of color in New Jersey and across our nation have been magnified and exacerbated by this public health crisis. The collection of this critical data here in New Jersey will help us better understand the scope of health disparities related to COVID-19 so together we can act to end them.”