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HHS Reminds Providers Of Civil Rights Obligations Amid COVID-19 Racial Disparities

Following an uptick in discrimination complaints due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Health and Human Services (HHS) reminded providers that they must follow federal civil rights laws prohibiting discrimination.

Examples of discrimination faced by communities of color include excessive wait times, rejected hospital admissions, and denied access to services, among others.

Communities of color face an increased risk of contracting the coronavirus due to longstanding systemic health and social inequities. Black people are five times more likely to contract the virus than white people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Surgeon General Jerome Adams said the pandemic is "changing lives, it's changing the way we conduct business, and in many ways my hope in the long term is it will change the way we conduct business for the better."

The Office of Civil Rights Director Roger Severino says he is working to ensure patients of color understand their rights and know the options available to them. Servino said patients who think their rights have been violated should file a complaint through HHS’ website.

"This guidance reminds providers that unlawful racial discrimination in healthcare will not be tolerated, especially during a pandemic," he said.

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