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During & after COVID-19, health departments must collect LGBTQ data

COVID-19 LGBTQ Community

Onlookers watch the LA Pride Parade make its way along Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood in 2018. Photo: Jon Viscott/City of West Hollywood.

Update: Sen. Scott Wiener has introduced a bill requiring LGBTQ COVID-19 data collection.

Editorial

The LGBTQ community is resilient, and we always have been. After all, we’ve survived a plague.

But our community is at greater risk of being affected by COVID-19’s physical and financial impacts. We need support from federal and state governments to ensure we make it through this pandemic stronger than ever.

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That will only start once we can collect comprehensive data about the LGBTQ community to understand the magnitude of the problem we are facing.

LGBTQ people are more likely to have cancer, HIV, and respiratory issues (due to higher tobacco and smoking rates).

Additionally, LGBTQ people are more likely to work in impacted sectors like the service industry, and are taking a bigger financial hit.

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The LGTBQ community, including LGBTQ youth, are also more likely to experience housing insecurity.

Though we know these are major issues, we don’t have in-depth data on COVID-19 and the LGBTQ community to give us a more comprehensive picture of the problem.

That’s why in early April I wrote a letter with the California Legislative LGBTQ Caucus, which I chair, to Gov. Newsom, and asked him to direct state and county health officials in all 58 counties to start collecting data on the impacts of COVID-19 on the LGBTQ community.

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Gov. Newsom’s administration has been collecting data to understand disparities in how COVID-19 is impacting different racial and ethnic groups. We need to expand this to the LGBTQ community as soon as we can. At this point, delaying is not an option.

Our community has historically been forgotten and marginalized by our country’s health system.

It took Pres. Ronald Reagan six years to even mention the word “AIDS,” after thousands had already died from the disease.

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Unfortunately, like in the early 1980s, we can’t rely on our federal government for this kind of support. State governments must take leadership on their own.

I believe in our Governor and his commitment to the LGBTQ community. I hope we’ll see action soon – from him and other governors across the country – to make sure we understand how COVID-19 is impacting us.

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Scott Wiener

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