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Citizens address state dashboard after they fail to report data of the black community in Mercer County infected with COVID-19

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(MERCER COUNTY)- 113 Mercer County residents have signed an open letter to the Mercer County Board of Health and the County Commission.

They're looking for answers about the absence of demographic data for the county as it's being reported on the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources dashboard.

Originally, Mercer County was reporting demographic information on race. Last September, Mercer County was showing 19.4% of those infected were black. Statewide, that number was 2.3%. Since then the racial data for Mercer County has vanished from the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources dashboard. The omission of that data is raising more than eyebrows.

"We are concerned that there is disparity in the rate of transmission and contraction of Coronavirus for the community of people of color. We had nearly a 20% infection rate in the black community and it has not been addressed," Deb McCarthy, a concerned citizen said.

Concerned citizens want the dashboard to be updated and the ethnic breakdown of the data restored, showing the numbers of people of color who are infected.

"If the labs are required to obtain all of that information why is it not being reported to the state and then trickling back, or reporting to the state and then trickling down. Somewhere along this continuing of who gets the data and is suppose to report it to the other party there's a problem," McCarthy said.

"That is important, crucial the scientific process, but that scientifically process does not happen on this level or with the residents of this county. It happens on a state and federal level. We can't report it if we can't have it accurately, and we can't even give it to them," Randy Maxwell, Chair of the Mercer County Board of Heath said.

Board members say while they want the numbers to reflect minorities on the dashboard, one member says his concern is how the COVID affects every race.

"I understand that maybe that's an important number. But the important number to me is that we're all supposed to be the same. It's killing white people, black people, Indian people it's killing everybody. The number we have to worry about is how many people is being infected, it doesn't matter if they are black or white to me," Stacey Hicks, a board member with Mercer County said.

The Board of Health says the majority of people do not share ethnicity information when they're tested.

"When case investigators call we ask all sorts of demographic information, race being one of those. The large percentage of people fail to give us that information. So when send that information up to the state level and when you look at the state dashboard it says unknown. We can't answer that question for anybody," Maxwell said.

The Mercer County Board of Health reports they will work with the concerned citizens to make sure the right data is presented. As for McCarthy she says she will be volunteer to make ensure the correct data is sent to the state.

Star Connor

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