Where is the COVID-19 data on LGBTQ people?
With everyone afraid of the coronavirus, we need to ask: how will it affect the LGBTQ community? To be specific, where is the COVID-19 data on LGBTQ people to support our healthcare?
We already know that the LGBT community faces increased risks from the coronavirus, as detailed in an open letter by a hundred national and local health organizations.
However, as Alex Reimer of OutSports pointed out, there’s no publicly available data on how COVID-19 is affecting LGBTQ people.
“This dearth of information makes it difficult for health providers to help our community, because they don’t know what we need, or where hot spots are,” Reimer said.
Importance of COVID-19 data on LGBTQ people
In Reimer’s interview with LGBTQ medical researcher Sean Cahill, Director of Health Policy Research at The Fenway Institute, Cahill said: “There’s no data. I’ve been asking around.”
“Fenway Health does collect that data, and the health centers around the country collect that data, so it’s possible that sometime in the future we may be able to get some data from the health center network if their diagnosing people with COVID-19,” Cahill said.
But he pointed out that the extent of testing is unclear in the health center system.
“There’s still a huge problem with the lack of testing equipment. But definitely, we’re not seeing from Centers for Disease Control data on sexual orientation and gender identity,” he explained.
Likewise, the LGBTQ community also has mistrust of the medical system that’s setting up additional barriers to care.
Cahill noted this high levels of medical mistrust, especially among black LGBT people and transgender people, are based on their experiences in the health care system.
“All of those factors could cause a disproportionate burden. Not necessarily higher rates of contracting the coronavirus, but more difficult experiences with the disease if people develop COVID-19,” he added.
Lawmakers urge more data for LGBTQ people
Some state lawmakers want health officials to look into how many coronavirus patients are LGBTQ. They pointed out that this data could be critical to the health of the LGBTQ community amidst the pandemic.
Legislators from California, New York, Colorado, and Pennsylvania made this call even as they staged a virtual town hall urging for data collection at state and federal levels.
As such, Bay Area State Senator Scott Wiener is pushing a bill to direct the state and counties to collect data from LGBTQ patients.
“We know that LGBTQ people do have increased health for COVID-19 because we have increased rates of HIV, cancer, of smoking, of homelessness, which are all risk factors,” Wiener said.
Meanwhile, Malcolm Kenyatta, a Democratic Pennsylvania state representative, said: “If you don’t know where it hurts, you don’t know how much it hurts, you’ll never fix what hurts.”
Kenyatta also introduced a bill calling for state government forms to collect demographic information that includes an LGBT identification option.
“We are ignored, and the scope of the problem is not readily available in data that we can all share,” Kenyatta said.