Jackson County Executive Frank White, Jr. has issued the following statement regarding the disclosure of COVID-19 race and ethnicity data:

Jackson Count Executive Frank White, Jr

“Recent reports have indicated that the black and brown communities of our region are being particularly hard hit by COVID-19. These reports mirror those we have seen across the country about high rates of COVID-19 cases and particularly deaths in African-American communities. Unfortunately, these reports are not surprising. Social and economic inequalities have put our communities of color at a distinct disadvantage for a healthy, sustainable and equal quality of life for decades.

“Understandably, these reports have increased the call for the public disclosure of more detailed information regarding the race and ethnicity of COVID-19 patients. But experts and decision makers in our region, as well as across the country, must thoughtfully consider the impact that such disclosure could have on those communities. While I support the right of everyone to be informed about this deadly virus, I must urge caution. Let me explain why.

“I fear that on the backside of this epidemic will exist another opportunity for redlining in the districts with high case numbers. The people in these districts could be subjected to feeling inferior, rejected for services and charged higher premiums on car and home insurance simply because of their address. While those calling for the release of this information do not intend such results, we must think about the back end of this epidemic to ensure that we don’t further enhance the racial divide in our county and city. Even though COVID-19 case numbers have been released by district in the city, I am asking our County health department not to release this demographic case information by zip code in Eastern Jackson County. We will continue to collect the data, while reinforcing the importance of staying home as much as possible to stop the spread, flatten the curve and save lives.”