VIDEO: Bustos Questions Racial Disparities, CDC Recommendations for Prisons in CDC Hearing Focused on COVID-19

Redfield: “This is one of the critical public health issues of our time – the social determinants of health.”

WASHINGTON – Today, in a House Appropriations Subcommittee hearing, Congresswoman Cheri Bustos (IL-17) questioned Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Robert Redfield about the disparate impact of coronavirus in communities of color, how social factors can contribute to an individual’s health status and how the CDC’s own recommendations have led to the recent transfer of COVID-19 positive inmates to United States Penitentiary at Thomson.

Citing local statistics on the disparate impact that COVID-19 has had on communities of color, Congresswoman Bustos asked how social factors can impact an individual’s health and fuel COVID-19 cases. In Winnebago County Illinois, African Americans make up 13% of the population, and 25% of COVID-19 cases. In Peoria County Illinois, African Americans make up 18% of the population, and 36% of COVID-19 cases. In Rock Island County Illinois, Hispanics make up 13% of the population, and 22% of COVID-19 cases.

“In Peoria, I know of one resident who has to ride the bus for 16 stops to be able to get to a grocery store, their only access to fresh produce,” said Congresswoman Bustos. “Social factors such as poverty, food deserts and a lack of access to health care can all negatively affect a person’s health and we know that our communities of color are disparately impacted by these problems. We must address these systemic issues if we want to improve health in all of our communities.”

Congresswoman Bustos also noted her legislation, the Social Determinants Accelerator Act, which seeks to address social factors that can have a negative impact on health.

WATCH Congresswoman Bustos question Director Redfield on racial disparities and social determinants in the time of COVID-19.

Congresswoman Bustos also raised questions about the CDC’s recommendations for COVID-19 testing in prisons, noting that Thomson prison has recently confirmed two coronavirus cases in inmates who had been transferred.

“Prisons across the country have seen large outbreaks of COVID-19 and our communities, our prison staff and our inmates are being put at additional risk because the Bureau of Prisons continues to transfer inmates without first testing them for COVID-19. This is in part because the CDC guidelines do not recommend testing inmates before they are transferred – even if they come from facilities with COVID-19 cases. As a result of this, BOP transferred 19 inmates from the Chicago prison, where there are cases of COVID-19, to the Thomson prison in my Congressional district, where there were zero cases, and they did this without first testing all inmates. Now, two of those inmates have tested positive,” said Congresswoman Bustos in the hearing. “They told my office they cannot test before all transfers because they do not have adequate testing supplies. What is the CDC doing to increase testing capacity? ”

WATCH Congresswoman Bustos ask Director Redfield about prison testing recommendations.

Today’s hearing follows a hearing in early March where Congresswoman Bustos fought for families and rural communities.