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In the early months of the pandemic, pockets of data in some U.S. communities suggested that the coronavirus was infecting and killing Black and Latino people at much higher rates than white people. A team of New York Times reporters tracking outbreaks across the country believed that acquiring granular national data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention could confirm this trend. There was just one problem: The federal government didn’t fulfill the reporters’ email request for the data.
To overcome that hurdle, Times journalists relied on a decades-old law known as the Freedom of Information Act, which grants the public access to records from almost any federal agency, and on state open-records laws. After the reporters obtained the data, their article, published in July, provided a detailed picture of 640,000 infections detected in nearly 1,000 U.S. counties, the most comprehensive look at coronavirus cases across the country to that point. The report also confirmed that Black and Latino people were indeed bearing the worst of the pandemic.
nursing homes with coronavirus cases and deaths. Ms. Ivory estimated that later, when reporting on coronavirus clusters at universities, they had sent over 200 requests to at least 150 colleges alone for case data, which helped them trace more than 400,000 Covid cases back to the universities in 2020.