Story at a glance
- Early numbers suggest the LGBTQ+ community is disproportionately affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
- While a new report seems to confirm this, it also acknowledges that not enough data is available to know the extent of the impact.
- COVID-19 data has been fragmented across state systems, not all of which are releasing or even collecting demographic information.
LGBTQ+ Americans report higher rates of several underlying health conditions than heterosexual Americans, making them more likely to suffer severe outcomes from COVID-19, according to a recent study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). But there's just not enough data to know the full picture.
“This report affirms what LGBTQ advocates and organizations have known all along: that our community is at greater risk and disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 health crisis,” Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement. “It is critical that health disparities in marginalized communities are fully captured by government data collection so they can be swiftly addressed.”
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The Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance was conducted by the 50 states, the District of Columbia, three U.S. territories and two freely associated states — each of which collects and reports COVID-19 data independently. The lack of cohesion and limited availability of demographic information has made it difficult for public health experts to target response efforts.
"U.S. COVID-19 surveillance systems lack information on sexual orientation, hampering examination of COVID-19–associated disparities among sexual minority adults," said a report summary.
Even so, research shows that LGBTQ+ people of color are twice as likely to contract the coronavirus as their heterosexual, white counterparts. At the same time, many of them are essential workers and more likely to have suffered financially as a result of the pandemic. Altogether, LGBTQ+ advocates warn that the reality could be even worse.
“The CDC confirmed LGBTQ people are at higher risk of contracting and suffering severe complications from COVID-19. LGBTQ Americans also face higher rates of job loss and poorer access to health care,” said GLAAD President Sarah Kate Ellis in a statement advocating for federal relief. “Congress must put all it can into a plan that maximizes relief for our community and all those most at risk.”
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