California announced Tuesday that it will begin collecting sexual orientation and gender identity data in new COVID-19 cases, which makes California only the second state in the U.S. to use this data in tracking how the coronavirus is spread within the LGBTQ+ community.
While no one is immune from COVID-19, the LGBTQ+ community is at a greater risk of contracting the virus because they experience higher rates of homelessness, smoking, and disproportionate numbers of HIV and cancer.
Advocates have been urging the State of California to collect this data for the last several months and argued that health officials do not know how COVID-19 has impacted the LGBTQ+ community so they have left out a response for this demographic.
During a press conference on Tuesday, secretary of California’s Department of Health Dr. Mark Ghaly, said the state will:
use this data to effectively see how our interventions are working and what more we need to do in California not just to address the COVID-19 situation, but also to close disparities.
Pennsylvania is the only other state collecting sexual orientation and gender identity data for COVID-19, along with Washington D.C. However, the information has not been available on either of their coronavirus dashboards, reports Forbes.
There have been too many stories of house parties and large gatherings adding insult to injury during the COVID-19 pandemic. A great number of those have been within the LGBTQ+ community.
A major one occurred just weeks ago during Fourth of July weekend in Fire Island when thousands gathered for beach parties and private home gatherings. Early in the pandemic, Wilton Manors held Winter Party, a festival with thousands from the LGBTQ+ community where many positive cases popped up and led to death in the community.
Hopefully the data collected by California, Pennsylvania, and Washington D.C. will help in not only tracking the virus within the LGBTQ+ community, but to also educate those who do not realize that there are greater risks within the queer community that should not be forgotten.
California State Senator, Scott Wiener, introduced Senate Bill 932 in May requesting the state to track how many LGBT people are being infected, hospitalized and placed in intensive care, as well as how many have recovered versus died.
In a statement issued in May, Wiener said:
We don’t have the data we need. This pandemic is particularly harming communities with underlying health and economic inequalities. We know our community is likely to have underlying health challenges. That makes COVID-19 worse, and as California moves forward we need to make sure that is taken into account and we have the resources to survive and protect our communities. The last thing we need is to have LGBTs not represented
There is also a long-standing history of government neglect for LGBTQ health, often with regards to a lack of data collection. The census — and many health forms — currently do not ask about sexual orientation and gender identity, which means that the LGBTQ community often suffers from a lack of resources and focus from public health infrastructure.
A hearing on Weiner’s Senate Bill 932 will be held in the California Assembly on August 4.