House Republicans press DOJ on ‘racial discrimination’ in COVID-19 treatment policies

House Republicans are demanding that Attorney General Merrick Garland provide information on how the Justice Department is confronting states with policies that use race as a factor in distributing scarce COVID-19 treatments.

In a letter sent Friday, 16 Republican representatives raised concerns over states, including Minnesota, New York and Utah, that prioritized “race over high-risk medical conditions” for providing treatments.

The policies in these states disfavored White patients when deciding who got treatment, although Minnesota recently removed race as a deciding factor.

“That is simply un-American,” the lawmakers wrote. “Racism is an evil that our country has fought against for generations, and we must stand up for the rights of all Americans to receive equal protection under the law.”

The states’ “flagrantly unconstitutional” policies, they said, are based on the FDA’s guidance for emergency use authorization of Sotrovimab, a monoclonal antibody treatment. The guidance lists high-risk medical conditions and factors that they argue go “beyond medical criteria to direct providers explicitly to consider race and ethnicity in determining what treatments to give to patients.”

“Absent evidence showing that race, independent of other factors, directly leads to different levels of COVID-19 severity for patients, this guidance appears to be nothing more than the FDA injecting the malignant scourge of Critical Race Theory into public health policy,” they wrote.

The Justice Department declined to comment on the letter.

The lawmakers said President Biden’s “haphazard pandemic response” has led to a shortage of such life-saving coronavirus treatments.

“In light of this shortage, state health departments have issued criteria, based on FDA guidance, for medical providers to ration these treatments,” they wrote. 

“Unfortunately, the inhabitants of these states are receiving different treatment from their own state governments based in no small part on their racial background.”

The letter cites a Dec. 27 memo from the New York health department, which reportedly lists risk factors for prioritizing monoclonal antibody treatments that includes an ethnicity or race that is not White due to “longstanding systemic health and social inequities.”

They also point to the Minnesota health department’s recently updated “ethical framework” for distributing the treatments, which states the “FDA’s acknowledgment means that race and ethnicity alone, apart from other underlying health conditions, may be considered in determining eligibility.”

And the Utah health department’s point system for risk factors used to determine treatment eligibility is a “truly brazen display of racial discrimination,” they said.

“Under this system, being a member of a ‘non-White race or Hispanic/Latinx ethnicity’ gave a patient twice as many points as hypertension, congestive heart failure, chronic kidney disease, and chronic liver disease,” they wrote.

The lawmakers called on the attorney general to set up a staff-level briefing by Feb. 11 on the department’s efforts to “protect” Americans from what they say is race-based discrimination.

The four-page letter was signed by Reps. Andy Biggs of Arizona; Chip Roy of Texas; Cliff Bentz of Oregon; Dan Bishop of North Carolina; Darrell Issa of California; Jim Jordan of Ohio; Ken Buck of Colorado; Louie Gohmert of Texas; Matt Gaetz of Florida; Michelle Fischbach of Minnesota; Mike Johnson of Louisiana; Scott Fitzgerald of Wisconsin; Tom McClintock of California; Tom Tiffany of Wisconsin; W. Gregory Steube of Florida and Victoria Spartz of Indiana.

For more information, visit The Washington Times COVID-19 resource page.

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