THE LATEST: On March 25, 2022, a federal court in the Northern District of New York dismissed a lawsuit brought against the NY State Department of Health. This lawsuit sought to block New York’s non-binding guidance that medical professionals consider race or ethnicity in evaluating a patient’s COVID-19 treatment.

Just a week before, a federal court in the Eastern District of New York dismissed a separate lawsuit against NY State Department of Health and New York City’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, which challenged both health departments’ non-binding guidance. In that case, the court rejected claims that considering inequities alongside other factors when prescribing treatments caused harm. For more on why that matters read our blog. The plaintiff in the Eastern District of New York has since filed notice of an appeal with the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals.

Democracy Forward filed briefs in both these cases on behalf of leading medical organizations, health equity experts, and direct service providers. These briefs provided data to the court in support of non-binding guidance that medical professionals–in their independent judgment–consider race or ethnicity alongside other relevant factors in evaluating a COVID-19 patient’s risk of developing severe symptoms.

Acknowledging the legacy of oppression, discrimination, and inequity in policies that affect the well-being of people is both legal and evidence-based. Attempts to paint these efforts as radical are out of step with science and social policy.


Systemic health & social inequities have contributed to disproportionately higher rates of severe illness & death from COVID-19 for minoritized populations. Social drivers of health caused the COVID-19 pandemic to disproportionately harm certain populations.

In late December, 2021, New York State and New York City issued non-binding guidance on the distribution of certain COVID-19 treatments during times of low supply. This guidance recommended that medical professionalsin their independent judgmentconsider race or ethnicity alongside other relevant factors in evaluating the risk of developing severe symptoms of COVID-19.

Some have attacked the guidance issued by New York City and New York State and separate health equity considerations by Minnesota, Utah, New Mexico, and the federal government. Three separate suits were filed in three separate federal courts in New York. While cases in the Eastern District and Northern District have both been dismissed, a case remains pending in the Southern District of New York.

Attacks on the guidance are out of step with science and should be rejected. The separate briefs we filed on behalf of health organizations and  experts explain this clearly for the court.

The following organizations and individuals have joined one or both briefs:

  • National Birth Equity Collaborative
  • National Medical Association
  • American Medical Association
  • Medical Society of the State of New York
  • American College of Physicians
  • American Public Health Association
  • Council of Medical Specialty Societies
  • New York State Academy of Family Physicians
  • Community Service Society of New York
  • Housing Works
  • Callen-Lorde Community Health Center
  • Partners In Health
  • 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East
  • Dr. Monica McLemore, RN, PhD, FAAN, Associate Professor, Family Health Care Nursing, University of California, San Francisco School of Nursing
  • Dr. Denis Nash, PhD, MPH, Distinguished Professor of Epidemiology and Executive Director, City University of New York (CUNY) Institute for Implementation Science in Population Health
  • Dr. Diana Romero, PhD, MA, Associate Professor, Department of Community Health and Social Sciences, CUNY Graduate School of Public Health & Health Policy
  • Dr. Joseph Osmundson, MS, PhD, Clinical Assistant Professor of Biology, New York University College of Arts & Science
  • Dr. Oni Blackstock, MD, MHS, Founder and Executive Director, Health Justice
  • Dr. Robert L. Cohen, MD, New York City Board of Correction; Former Vice President for Medical Operations, New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation
  • Dr. Alexis Merdjanoff, PhD, Clinical Assistant Professor of Social & Behavioral Sciences, NYU School of Global Public Health, and Faculty Affiliate, Center for Anti-Racism, Social Justice & Public Health
  • Justin M. Feldman, ScD, Health and Human Rights Fellow, Harvard FXB Center for Health and Human Rights
Last Updated: March 28, 2022