Rouson to Florida Surgeon General: Produce data on virus impact on Blacks?

By Jeri Yonder, Contributor 

TAMPA BAY — African Americans are disproportionately impacted by killer diseases above all other ethnic groups and therefore are extremely vulnerable to the coronavirus that has swept across the nation. In the county’s hotspots, black people are infected at alarming rates that double and triple that of their counterparts. 

In a letter to Florida Surgeon General Dr. Scott Rivkees, Senator Darryl Rouson, (D) St. Petersburg said, “The impact of the coronavirus on African Americans in Florida has yet to be revealed. Florida has been slow to act on this pandemic and I’m afraid Black people are suffering most.  If that’s the case, we need to take the proper steps, and utilize the necessary resources to remedy the problem. But, we need to know the what the data says.”

The following are excerpts from Rouson’s letter to the Surgeon General. He said he expects Rivkees to deliver the data in a matter of days.

Dear Dr. Rivkees,

African Americans, Latinos, and other minorities are disproportionately affected by the ongoing pandemic of COVID-19. The early indicators and sparse data is hard to ignore and a painful reminder of the inequality divide that still exists in America and is now showing up in our medical centers, testing sites, and unfortunately our mortuaries. 

Major cities such as Chicago, Philadelphia, and Detroit and states like Louisiana have tracked the COVID-19 devastation in communities of color. In fact, the majority of the States are either not tracking or releasing racial and ethnic data on who is being tested and treated for the virus. This valuable information would allow public officials to seek out areas of high concern and hopefully address and contain the spread. Today, renowned expert Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases announced that African Americans are at a “higher risk” for COVID-19.

Minorities are less likely to have insurance, a primary care physician, and have a higher probability of having pre-existing conditions. Pockets of poverty and homelessness, throughout our state, do not allow for elbow room much less social distancing. Politico reported that in Florida, five counties have revealed that African Americans and Latino Covid-19 patients are getting hospitalized and, in some places, dying at higher rates than white patients.

We should be ahead of this as a state. I am asking Florida’s Department of Health and your Surgeon General’s office to release racial and ethnic data to properly inform our minority communities across our state. It is important that the proper resources are marshalled to our most vulnerable populations.


Darryl E. Rouson 

Senate District 19

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