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OP-ED: COVID-19 LGBTQs, minorities disproportionately affected
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times
2020-04-15

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These are some truly historic times.

And in what may come as no surprise to many, the coronavirus pandemic is adversely affecting many more people in marginalized communities, such as the LGBTQ demographic and racial minorities.

Human Rights Campaign ( HRC ) recently published "The Lives and Livelihoods of Many in the LGBTQ Community are at Risk Amidst COVID-19 Crisis," which details the unique challenges the LGBTQ community faces due to its economic and healthcare situations.

"As in all emergencies, the most vulnerable are the most at risk during the COVID-19 crisis," said HRC President Alphonso David in a statement. "Data is emerging showing Black communities are contracting and dying from the virus at particularly high rates and our own research shows the economic and health impacts this pandemic may have on LGBTQ people.

HRC Foundation estimates there are nearly 14 million LGBTQ adults and 2 million LGBTQ youth in the United States. Based on HRC Foundation's analyses of General Social Survey ( GSS ) data, more than 5 million work in jobs that are more likely to be impacted by COVID-19.

Among the highly affected industries are restaurants and food services; hospitals; K-12 education, colleges and universities; and retail.

Also, nearly one in 10 LGBTQ people are unemployed and are more likely to live in poverty than straight and cisgender people, meaning they cannot always afford the healthcare that they need or afford to engage in preventative healthcare measures. In addition, health coverage gaps exist and paid leave is not available to many people—and older LGBTQ individuals face their own unique challenges.

Obstacles such as healthcare challenges affect other marginalized communities, such as racial minorities.

NPR recently cited information from the the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ( CDC ) that about one in three people who become sick enough from COVID-19 to require hospitalization were African American. Even though 33 percent of those hospitalized patients were Black, African Americans make up only 13 percent of the U.S. population. ( The report also found that 45 percent of hospitalizations were among white people, who make up 76 percent percent of the population; and 8 percent of hospitalizations were among Hispanics, who make up 18 percent of the population. )

The situation is even more dire in Chicago, where, as of April 4, 70 percent of the local residents dying from the coronavirus were African American; the city's population is approximately 30-percent Black. Mayor Lori Lightfoot declared a "public health red alarm" after learning of the figures, and promised a "robust and immediate comprehensive plan" to confront the disparity.

On April 7, Lightfoot told PBS, "The reason is, we have been talking about the health disparities in our city really for years. When you see that African Americans disproportionately have high rates of diabetes, heart disease and a range of respiratory problems, this disease [COVID-19] attacks those underlying medical conditions with a vengeance."

However, there are many other factors, including unemployment ( often with jobs with no paid sick leave ), environmental factors and lack of access to healthcare, to name a few.

To try and combat this, Lightfoot said that she has done two things: make sure there is good data, and "mobilize what we're calling a racial equity rapid response team. We have a model in one area of our city that has really broken down a lot of barriers to getting African Americans access to health care, demystifying the system, and really bringing them into preventative care." ( Also, Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker announced a partnership between Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago and four federally qualified health centers ( FQHCs ) on Chicago's West and South Sides that will expand testing in these communities to an additional 400 tests per day—a good start, but a start nonetheless. )

And while Asian Americans are not dying in similar numbers as African Americans, they are also being affected by COVID-19—in the way of stigma. In the past month, there has been everything from a New York City man reportedly spraying Febreze at an Asian subway, to a woman in my own building who talked about avoiding Chinese restaurants and who used a racial slur ( prompting me to say, "I didn't know I was at a Klan meeting" ).

Martin Luther King Jr. once said, "Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness." Americans are resilient—and that strength can only be reinforced if we band together and not tear each other apart, as we face an unprecedented situation.

To access HRC's "Lives and Livelihoods," visit HRC.org/resources/the-lives-and-livelihoods-of-many-in-the-lgbtq-community-are-at-risk-amidst. The NPR article is at https://www.npr.org/sections/coronavirus-live-updates/2020/04/08/830030932/cdc-hospital-data-point-to-racial-disparity-in-covid-19-cases.

The PBS interview is at https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/patients-dying-of-covid-19-are-disproportionately-black-chicagos-mayor-isnt-surprised.

Andrew Davis is the executive editor of Windy City Times.


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