Advertisement

Coronavirus: Ontario proposing all health units collect race-based data on COVID-19

Click to play video: 'COVID-19 health data will help prevent future spread of the coronavirus' COVID-19 health data will help prevent future spread of the coronavirus
WATCH ABOVE: Special advisor for the new Ontario Health Data Platform for COVID-19, Dr. Jane Philpott, tells Mercedes Stephenson she will make recommendations for collecting race-based COVID-19 data and that going forward, we need to do much better in this area – Jun 14, 2020

TORONTO — Every health unit in Ontario could soon be collecting race-based data on the COVID-19 pandemic after the provincial government announced Monday it would act on the advice of community leaders and public health experts who want the figures tracked.

The province said earlier this month it was considering the move, but on Monday announced a proposed regulatory change that would mandate collection of racial and other data in a consistent way while also protecting patient privacy.

Health Minister Christine Elliott said some groups may be at greater risk of COVID-19 infection, including racialized communities and those with lower incomes.

READ MORE: Ontario mulls collection of race-based coronavirus data; some argue it’s essential

“As has been requested by community leaders, we are taking action to support and expand the work needed to help protect our communities all across the province,” Elliott said in a statement.

Story continues below advertisement

The province had granted some health units permission to begin collecting race-based data voluntarily and some — including Ottawa, Toronto, Middlesex-London and Sudbury _ had been doing so, but critics argued it wasn’t enough.

[ Sign up for our Health IQ newsletter for the latest coronavirus updates ]

Elliott said collecting the information will help guide decisions as the province works to stop the spread of the virus.

The government said that under the proposed changes, people who have tested costive for COVID-19 will be asked questions about their race, income, languages spoken and household size.

Click to play video: 'Coronavirus outbreak: Ford names more regions set to start Stage 2 of Phase 2 reopening' Coronavirus outbreak: Ford names more regions set to start Stage 2 of Phase 2 reopening
Coronavirus outbreak: Ford names more regions set to start Stage 2 of Phase 2 reopening – Jun 15, 2020

The questions are optional and personal privacy will be protected, the government said.

A spokeswoman for Elliott said all health units could begin collecting the data in several weeks, when the regulation is expected to change.

“We will continue to work with community partners, health equity stakeholders, and academic experts as we collect, analyze and disseminate findings following data analyses,” Hayley Chazan said in a statement.

Story continues below advertisement

In the U.S., public health officials discovered in April that the potentially lethal SARS-CoV-2 virus was disproportionately affecting Black communities.

Advocates say the data are important for decision-making at the provincial and local levels in order to help contain the spread more effectively and to help those hit hardest.

READ MORE: City of Toronto urges province to collect COVID-19 race and occupation data

In early May and again this month, the federal government agreed such information was sorely lacking.

Toronto Public Health has been analyzing cases of coronavirus disease in terms of geographic area. The information has indicated higher infection rates were more prevalent in low-income neighbourhoods with a higher percentage of immigrants and visible minorities.

In an open letter to Elliott and Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. David Williams, earlier this month, Toronto city council and its board of health urged them to mandate provincial race-based data collection.

Sponsored content