The state will start reporting sexual orientation and gender identity in its COVID-19 counts, as LGBTQ activists suspect their community is particularly hard-hit.
California COVID-19 data has been telling us for a while that Latinx communities and the African American population are suffering higher rates of COVID-19 infections. But some activists argue that’s not the full picture of how the new coronavirus is impacting marginalized communities, namely, the LGBTQ population, which has higher rates of homelessness and HIV infection, and is more likely to work in the high-risk service industry. With that in mind, California will start collecting sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) data on COVID-19 cases, according to a report in the New York Times, after a broad new directive was enacted Tuesday by the state Health and Human Services Agency.
The data will only be reported in the cases of patients who choose to give this information, they are not forced to disclose it.
"Complete data is essential to addressing health inequities and better designing public health interventions that save lives," state Department of Public Health director Dr. Sonia Angell said in a statement. "These changes apply to COVID-19, and all reportable diseases, to help us understand their impact by race, ethnicity, gender identity and sexual orientation."
In reporting filed closer to home, the Bay Area Reporter points out that state senator Scott Wiener had been pushing for this in his bill SB 932, which passed the senate unanimously last week, but still needs to go before the assembly. And Wiener vows he’ll still push it, despite that the state DPH and HHS have already mandated the practice.
“This is just the beginning,” Wiener told the Bay Area Reporter. “SB 932 is more important than ever, because we must codify this change into law. 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.”
This is not the unanimous opinion of the LGBTQ community. Openly gay Colorado Governor Jared Polis argued with Wiener in a recent virtual town hall that "There's a lot of [LGBTQ] people in Colorado who don't want that info out there; less maybe than in Hell's Kitchen or Chelsea. While we love data, [but] we don't want to ask people for data they are not comfortable sharing."
The data is still not perfect, no matter how much of it there is. When it comes to race and ethnicity, 36 percent of California COVID-19 patients declined to disclose this information, according to the Times. So technically, more than a third of patients aren’t giving this information up, so it’s likely not entirely accurate! But on the flip side, 36 percent not saying anything equates to 64 percent who are reporting this data. And 64 percent is an awfully good sample size, and one the state hopes to replicate with LGBTQ patients.
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