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Canada still only considering gathering race-based COVID-19 data

Last Updated May 6, 2020 at 5:51 pm PST

Deputy Chief Public Health Officer Howard Njoo responds to a question during a daily news conference Friday May 1, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

OTTAWA — The Public Health Agency of Canada says it is still looking into the possibility of collecting race-based data on COVID-19, despite months of calls from advocates for a clearer picture of who is contracting the disease and how it affects them.

Public health officials in the United States discovered weeks ago the deadly virus was disproportionately affecting black communities.

Advocates in Canada say the same situation may be playing out here on a smaller scale, but the government isn’t collecting the data to understand who is most at risk.

Currently Canada gathers only basic demographic data about people who test positive for the disease, including age and gender.

Canada’s top public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam says her agency is in talks with the provinces to improve the data collection.

Her deputy, Dr. Howard Njoo, says provinces need to balance the need for information with their capacity to do more data gathering, given how stretched they are already.