The Covid-19 Pandemic
City Council seeks data about coronavirus health disparities
Scott introduces bill requiring the health department to report the race and other details about coronavirus patients. The Young administration is called on to appeal ruling that invalidated city’s clean air law.
Above: Brandon Scott presides over an empty Councll chambers at the body’s first virtual meeting. Other Council members participated from their homes. (CharmTV)
City Council President Brandon Scott introduced a bill and a resolution Monday pushing for data that would help the public understand health disparities during the coronavirus pandemic.
Responding to reports from other cities that the virus is disproportionately affecting poor and black neighborhoods, Scott’s bill requires the Baltimore’s health department to report the age, race, gender and zip code of all patients diagnosed with a disease causing a state health emergency, as well as the number of deaths.
“We have to be able to have this data aggregated in this way so we can make sure we are attacking this virus,” Scott said. He said the data would improve our “understanding the deep, deep disparity this is causing people across the board.”
Scott’s resolution requests the Maryland Department of Health to report the race of those diagnosed and those who die.
Meeting as a full body for the first time in a month, Scott presided from his regular chair in the Clarence “Du” Burns Chambers, surrounded by a few aides.
Other Council members participated online, apparently from their homes. The chambers itself was closed to the public.
Seven bills were sent to Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young, among them, two amendments to the city charter aimed at reducing the power of the mayor.
One allows the Council to override a veto by the mayor with 10 votes instead of 12. The other removes a loophole that prevents the Council from overriding some vetoes based on the schedule of its meetings.
Eric Costello was the sole member to vote against the bills.
Young has been critical of these and other proposed charter amendments, saying they would negatively impact on city operations and finances. Last month, he urged Scott to send the amendments back to committee.
If Young vetoes the bills, the Council would have to muster 12 votes to override the veto.
The Council unanimously passed Ed Reisinger’s resolution calling on the law department to appeal a judge’s ruling invalidating the Baltimore Clean Air Act.
U.S. District Court Judge George L. Russell III ruled last month that the law preempted the authority of state government. Environmentalists claim cities are permitted to enact tougher environmental rules than their states.
The invalidated law would have forced Wheelabrator Baltimore and another incinerator to release far fewer pollutants.
“The judge made a bad call,” Reisinger said last night. “This is a public health issue where all communities have the right to breathe clean air.”