On Dec. 18, 2020, APA CEO Arthur C. Evans Jr., PhD, sent a letter to the bipartisan leaders of the House Oversight and House Appropriations committees in the 117th Congress, requesting “oversight hearings on state efforts to achieve health equity during the COVID-19 pandemic early in the 117th Congress.” The letter also highlighted gaps in current COVID-19 testing plans prepared by states for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), as well as ongoing issues in standardized data collection concerning the spread of COVID-19.
On April 24, 2020, President Trump signed Congress’ fourth COVID-19 bill, which required each state or local government receiving funds from the bill to submit a plan to HHS that would, among other measures, describe “how the State, locality, territory, tribe, or tribal organization will use its resources for testing, including as it relates to easing any COVID–19 community mitigation policies.” HHS then released guidance and instructions, as well as a template reporting form, to assist states and localities with completing their respective testing plans. A workgroup of members of the “Equity Flattens the Curve” network was convened to assist Advocacy staff with interpreting these plans and making recommendations in light of imminent actions on vaccine distribution.
With this workgroup’s guidance, APA found that these plans largely relied on broad descriptors such as “racial and ethnic minorities” to describe strategies to target these diverse populations as a single monolithic group. APA also found these plans often fail to identify a strategy for key congregate settings, such as mental health facilities and prisons. APA also highlighted underlying data collection concerns, such as the lack of cooperation among states on sharing data across state lines.