The ACLU of Nebraska and another group submitted a public records request to the state Thursday seeking statewide data on cases of COVID-19 and deaths due to the virus broken down by race and ethnicity.
An official in the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services said during a town hall on Nebraska Educational Television with Gov. Pete Ricketts that the state should have the data by the end of May.
The ACLU and the COVID Tracking Project, which joined in making the request, hope to expedite the release of the information.
Rose Godinez, legal and policy counsel for the ACLU of Nebraska, said the ACLU and several other groups signed a letter about a month ago seeking the information. They have not received a response.
“We really need this data to ensure the resources are going to where they’re most needed,” she said. “It’s a critical racial justice issue.”
Both the Douglas County Health Department and the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department have posted data on race and ethnicity. That data indicates that Nebraskans of color are being disproportionately affected by the virus.
But the American Medical Association has reported that Nebraska is one of four states that have not released statewide data on race and ethnicity of people who have been diagnosed with the virus or those who have died as a result of the illness.
The COVID Tracking Project, in partnership with the Antiracist Research and Policy Center, compiles race and ethnicity data from every state that reports it in order to capture the impact of the outbreak on vulnerable communities.
HHS officials have said previously that they have been working with local health departments to enhance the process needed to capture such data, which is important to the health agency as well. But the information is not always available in the electronic data submitted to the agency.