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LGBTQ COVID-19 data to be collected in California

COVID-19 LGBTQ Community

Samples prepare to get tested for COVID-19. Photo: Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.

The COVID-19 public health emergency has raged more than four months, and nobody knows how the virus has impacted the health of LGBTQ people in Califonria.

LGBTQ health advocates have been pleading with Gov. Gavin Newsom for help, but he has ignored them.

After substantial pushback, he finally decided to help.

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Collecting data

On Tuesday, Dr. Mark Ghaly, Secretary of the California Department of Health and Human Services, announced emergency regulations — Healthcare providers and local health departments must immediately collect and report voluntary data on the gender identity and sexual orientation of patients to understand how the LGBTQ community is impacted by COVID-19.

“This data will finally give our government, our public health leaders and our community an understanding of the degree to which this pandemic is devastating LGBTQ+ people — and what steps need to be taken to save lives,” Rick Zbur, executive director of Equality California, said in a statement.

During a May 13 virtual press conference about California’s refusal to gather gender identity and sexual orientation data, Zbur said he was “appalled” at the state’s lack of action.

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“This is the most troubling wake up call. We have to beg public health officials to collect this information,” he said. “I’m appalled we have to ask for this information. This is a core responsibility of public health.”

Community is vulnerable

The LGBTQ community is vulnerable to COVID-19 for several reasons:

Mayor Robert Garcia failed LGBTQ community on COVID-19

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In April, Sen. Scott Wiener asked Gov. Gavin Newsom, via a letter,  to direct health departments to collect the gender identity and sexual orientation data.

SB 932

When Newsom refused, Wiener, in May, introduced SB 932. That bill, which passed the Senate and will have an Assembly hearing next week, would require California to collect data on COVID-19 and gender identity and sexual orientation related to infection, hospitalization, ICU, recovery, and mortality rates.

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The bill has been amended to cover gender identity and sexual orientation data collection for all 90 reportable diseases and conditions.

The bill is co-authored by all members of the California Legislative LGBTQ Caucus and Assemblyman David Chiu (D-San Francisco). It is co-sponsored by Equality California and the California LGBTQ Health and Human Services Network.

“SB 932 is more important than ever, because we must codify this change into law,” Wiener said in a statement. “This data collection, not just for COVID-19 but for all reportable communicable diseases, is essential to ensure that our community gets the resources it needs moving forward.

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“We can’t keep leaving the LGBTQ community behind when it comes to public health,” he said. “California can and should lead the way in giving the LGBTQ community the health justice it deserves.”

About the author

Phillip Zonkel

Award-winning journalist Phillip Zonkel spent 17 years at Long Beach's Press-Telegram, where he was the first reporter in the paper's history to have a beat covering the city's vibrant LGBTQ. He also created and ran the popular and innovative LGBTQ news blog, Out in the 562.

He won two awards and received a nomination for his reporting on the local LGBTQ community, including a two-part investigation that exposed anti-gay bullying of local high school students and the school districts' failure to implement state mandated protections for LGBTQ students.

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