Posted on May 7, 2020

Senate Democrats Demand Action from CDC, DOJ to Curb COVID-19 Racism

Kimmy Yam, NBC News, May 6, 2020

A group of Senate Democrats urged two federal agencies to take tangible steps to address a significant rise in anti-Asian bias related to the coronavirus outbreak.

More than a dozen senators, led by Mazie Hirono of Hawaii and Cory Booker of New Jersey, sent separate letters to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Justice this week, demanding that they devise and publicly release a plan for addressing the surge in coronavirus-related acts of racism aimed at Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

The lawmakers point out that the two agencies made efforts to mitigate bias incidents and hate crimes after the SARS outbreak and the 9/11 terrorist attacks, but that no such actions have been taken regarding pandemic-related prejudice.


The senators also pressed DOJ to designate an official to coordinate a review of the pandemic-related hate attacks and discrimination as well as a subsequent interagency response. They demanded that the Justice Department produce monthly reports, detailing the number of hate incidents and breaking them down by race, ethnicity and gender. They also urged the department to regularly work with AAPI community organizations and disseminate information, translated into languages used by the community, on civil rights protections.

Similarly, the lawmakers asked the CDC to connect with AAPI groups and establish a multidisciplinary community outreach team to create a “culturally tailored” response to the hostility.

Hirono noted that in the past, the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division set forth a three-part plan after the 9/11 attacks that included outreach to the affected communities, including Sikhs, Muslims, South Asians and other Americans who were targeted by discrimination, as well as coordination of civil rights enforcement across agencies. And in 2003, after the SARS outbreak, the CDC launched a 14-member community outreach team the week the agency reported the first five confirmed cases of the illness.

However during the COVID-19 pandemic, little official movement has come from the DOJ. {snip}