COVID source callout: West Virginia

I have issues with West Virginia’s race data.

First, West Virginia insists on reporting COVID-19 cases assigned to racial categories which do not exist. Two weeks ago, this was a category labeled, “Asian; Black or African American; White.” Last week, this was a category labeled, “Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander; White.” The categories are particularly curious because WV usually only reports their cases according to three race categories: White, Black, and Other.

(These extra categories have since disappeared from WV’s COVID Dashboard.)

Relatedly, WV’s race data for cases is listed in a rather unintuitive location on the state’s dashboard: on a page labeled “County Summary.” If you did not look closely, you would think they weren’t reporting demographic data at all.

And finally: WV used to report demographic information for deaths due to COVID-19 which occurred in the state. This information has not been reported since May 20. Sure, WV’s outbreak has been relatively small (with a total of 5,887 cases and 103 deaths as of July 26), but this is no excuse for failing to report the impacts of this outbreak on marginalized communities. According to CRDT figures, Black West Virginians make up 4% of the state’s population, but comprise 8% of its COVID-19 cases. To present a complete picture, the state should report death counts as well as the impacts of COVID-19 on other racial groups.

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