LGBTQ people at higher risk of COVID-19, CDC study shows

ByMaggie Green WLS logo
Friday, February 5, 2021
LGBTQ people at higher risk of COVID-19, CDC study shows
In a new report, the CDC noted that LGBTQ people in the US are more likely to have many of the severe underlying health conditions associated with severe disease from COVID 19.

ATLANTA -- In a new report, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted that LGBTQ people in the US are more likely to have many of the severe underlying health conditions associated with severe disease from COVID-19.

However, the agency noted that a lack of data around LGBTQ populations in current COVID-19 surveillance systems is preventing more nuanced examination and assistance to these groups.

This information wasn't new to the Human Rights Campaign. The organization has been tracking LGBTQ risk factors for COVID-19 for nearly a year, and pushing for the federal government to address these disparities.

"The Human Rights Campaign has known for a very long time that we needed to have inclusive data collection to ensure that people are counted, and we have better understanding as to the factors that form health disparities," Human Rights Campaign president Alphonso David said in an interview with ABC11.

A brief issued earlier this year points out that LGBTQ people are more likely to work in jobs affected by COVID-19.

"We're talking about 5 million people that are disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 in the realm of employment alone," David said.

The brief also notes that the LGBTQ community is more likely to be uninsured, more likely to not have access to equitable medical care, more likely to live in poverty or be housing insecure, more likely to smoke or have asthma, and more likely to experience depression or anxiety than the general population. All of these risk factors are compounded for people of color within the LGBTQ community and transgender people, especially transgender people of color.

But because federal and state governments have not been tracking sexuality as a demographic in COVID-19 surveillance, David said this population is being left behind when it comes to resources for care.

"The impact of not tracking data for LGBTQ people is that resources are denied to communities that need it the most," David said. "We understand that data actually drives public policy which is why it is so important to have data to actually inform how government officials are creating and implementing solutions to problems such as COVID-19."

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While David said it is heartening to see the CDC report, he added that states need to take extra steps to gather more data, and then use that data to inform public policy.

"The data showing that we're impacted is only step one," David said. "Understanding why we're impacted is step two: poverty, lack of access to health care, lack of access to housing, and then creating solutions that will directly address the health disparities."

Of course, David also recognized that due to lack of legal protections for LGBTQ people, even if the data is collected, community members may still feel uncomfortable disclosing their sexual identity to government officials and medical practitioners.

During his campaign, President Joe Biden promised to champion the Equality Act in Congress within the first 100 days of his administration. The act would expand protections of all existing civil rights laws to LGBTQ people. The bill passed the House of Representatives in 2019, but has since stalled in the Senate.

David said the passage of this legislation would have a huge effect on the LGBTQ population, especially those living in the 29 states that have no comprehensive protections for people based on sexual identity.

"It will be a cultural shift in this country where people know they are finally protected," he added.

President Joe Biden signed a memorandum Thursday encouraging US agents working abroad to fight the criminalization of LGBTQ identities and the rights of LGBTQ asylum seekers and re

In the meantime the HRC continues to stress the collection of data to demonstrate the need for more policy aimed at bridging the gap when it comes to COVID-19 care for the LGBTQ community, and David hopes the CDC report will only serve to bolster his organization's effort.

"Data is important," he said. "Data drives, and should drive policy, and it can create a better and more sustainable society."