Virginia Department of Health COVID-19 Dashboard to Include More Detailed Race and Ethnicity Data Starting Today 

June 15, 2020

(Richmond, Va.) — The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) will change how race and ethnicity data are presented, beginning today. This update will provide a more detailed look at the effects of COVID-19 on minority populations across Virginia. VDH will combine race and ethnicity information into one category and will expand the number of racial identities from three to seven.

Previously, race data was reported as one of three categories: White, Black or African American, and Other.  Ethnicity data identified individuals as either Hispanic or Latino or Not Hispanic or Latino.

The new reporting method will expand racial and ethnic categories to the following:

  • Asian or Pacific Islander – Non-Hispanics who identify as Asian, Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander
  • Black – Non-Hispanics who identify as Black or African American
  • Latino – Individuals of any race who identify as Hispanic or Latino
  • Native American – Non-Hispanics who identify as American Indian or Alaska Native
  • White – Non-Hispanics who identify as White
  • Other Race – Non-Hispanics who select Other Race
  • Two or More Races – Non-Hispanics who identify as more than one of the above race categories

“We have been working diligently for the last several weeks to provide more detailed race and ethnicity data. This updated format allows us to get a clearer picture of how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting minority communities in Virginia,” said Virginia State Health Commissioner M. Norman Oliver, M.D., M.A.

“We see, for instance, that COVID-19 is disproportionately affecting Virginia’s Latinx population. Although Latinx people make up 10 percent of the state’s population, they account for 45 percent of the COVID-19 cases, 35 percent of the hospitalizations and 11 percent of the deaths. Factors such as access to health care, poverty, geography, occupation and racism drive these disparities. Our health districts across the state are working hard to expand testing and outreach in these hard-hit communities,” Dr. Oliver said. “One of our biggest challenges is the large amount of missing data on race and ethnicity in the disease reports we receive. We continue to encourage individuals, health providers and laboratories to report race and ethnicity data.”

The updated reporting of accurate race and ethnicity data is considered to be an essential step toward better measuring COVID-19 infection rates as well as the overall impact of the pandemic.  In addition, this updated method of presenting data will allow researchers with the Office of Health Equity to identify health inequities while providing information to develop tracking and reporting guidelines for future health crises.

“The leadership of the Health Equity Working Group (HEWG) group is committed to building visible equity by leveraging sincere stakeholder engagement and the diverse perspectives represented within this historic body, which includes the many dimensions of diversity we have represented in the Commonwealth,” said Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer Janice Underwood, Ph.D.

“As a partner in the pursuit of justice for all and advancing equity across several determinants of health, the HEWG advocated for expanding racial data collected for COVID-19 to include those of Asian and Indigenous Virginia Indian or Native American heritage,” said Dr. Underwood. “We are pleased that these updated reporting changes will ensure a more complete picture of the impact this pandemic is having on our residents.”

The new categories are aligned with race and ethnicity standards used by various state and federal agencies.  This data collection method allows for the integration of various data sources and is based on reporting from the Office of Management and Budget Standards.

To help preserve individual privacy of groups with relatively small population numbers, data for several health district will be combined as follows:

  • Asian or Pacific Islanders
    • Cumberland Plateau Health District and Lenowisco Health District
    • Eastern Shore Health District and Three Rivers Health District
  • Native American
    • Cumberland Plateau Health District, Lenowisco Health District and Mount Rogers Health District
    • Pittsylvania/Danville Health District and Southside Health District
    • Eastern Shore Health District and Three Rivers Health District
    • Alleghany Health District and Roanoke City Health District

In addition to changes to the Demographics dashboard, the options for data downloading for public use will include a single dataset with the seven categories. This combined dataset will replace the previous Race and Ethnicity datasets. The more granular presentation of race data is the result of collaboration with various groups, including the Office of Health Equity and Health Equity Working Group.