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NATIONAL Coronavirus deaths, the CARES Act, Ritchie Torres, trans-youth study
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times
2020-04-06

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Lorena Borjas—a transgender Latina activist who fought for immigrants and sex workers—died of COVID-19 at age 59 at Coney Island Hospital, CNN.com reported. Her passing inspired tributes from countless activists and leaders, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, New York Attorney General Letitia James, New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and blogger Monica Roberts. Borjas came to the United States from Mexico in 1981 when she was 20, according to the short film "The Story of Lorena Borjas." She considered herself a gay man at the time and didn't see a future for herself in Mexico, Borjas says in the film—so she emigrated in order to transition.

In Florida, the Broward Sheriff's Office ( BSO ) lost one of its veteran deputies to the coronavirus, as Deputy Shannon Bennett, who served for 12 years, died of COVID-19, The Miami Herald reported. Bennett, 39, was a member of the LGBTQ community and had announced he was to marry in December. Bennett was one of the 21 BSO employees who had tested positive for COVID-19, Sheriff Gregory Tony said; there are 20 other deputies who are currently in self isolation.

New Jersey emergency-room doctor Frank Gabrin died in the arms of his husband, Arnold Vargas, a week after contracting the coronavirus, CNN.com reported. His loss is a lesson on the importance of caring for the people who are caring for the public, Gabrin's friend Debra Vaselech Lyons told CNN's Chris Cuomo on Cuomo Prime Time. The two-time cancer survivor tried to make the best of things when coronavirus struck, but Vaselech Lyons said, "it went from manageable to unmanageable overnight."

Henrietta Robinson—who was an icon in the Miami Beach LGBTQ community—died April 3 of complications with COVID-19, Local10.com reported. Robinson, 79, made such an impact in the community that former Mayor Mattie Herrera Bower gave her a commendation on behalf of the city of Miami Beach for her activism in 2011.

More than 6.4 million single LGBT adults and 324,000 same-sex couples will receive the full direct payout under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act ( CARES Act ), according to a new analysis by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law, a press release noted. Even more single LGBT adults and same-sex couples with higher incomes will receive some amount of direct assistance, and those with children will receive an additional $500 per child. The full brief is at https://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/publications/impact-cares-act-lgbt/.

Congressional candidate and New York City Council Member Ritchie Torres—the first out LGBTQ elected official from the Bronx—recently announced that he tested positive for COVID-19, LGBTQ Nation reported. After quarantining and directing members of his staff to do the same, Torres, 31, has spent his time in isolation speaking to news outlets and posting on social media to communicate a crucial message: Sick or not, stay home. Torres' identity is especially significant because one of his biggest opponents in the Democratic primary race, Ruben Diaz Sr., has a long history of homophobia.

A new study published in the journal Pediatrics found that high rates of HIV transmission among transgender youth may be reduced through interventions that include training on how to provide gender-affirming care for healthcare practitioners working with adolescents; the inclusion of all gender identities, sexual orientations, and definitions of sex and sexual activity in sexual-health education; and making it easier and more affordable for transgender youth to access healthcare, a Fenway Health release noted. Data were collected during two, three-day asynchronous focus groups of 30 transgender youth age 13-24 from all regions of the United States.

Samaritan's Purse, an evangelical Christian group that regularly takes advantage of humanitarian crises to spread their far-right agenda, has been revealed as the charity behind a tent hospital that has been erected in New York City's Central Park, LGBTQ Nation reported. Franklin Graham, son of the late evangelist Billy Graham, leads the group. The younger Graham's history of vicious attacks on LGBTQ people and Muslims spurred several British venues to cancel contracts with his ministry earlier this year.

A second man believed to have contracted COVID-19 while attending this year's Winter Party Festival has died of complications from the virus, WSVN.com reported. A spokesperson for the National LGBTQ Task Force ( the party's beneficiary ) said Ron Rich "succumbed to COVID-19 over the weekend." Rich's death came days after 40-year-old North Miami resident Israel Carreras was identified as the first death from COVID-19 in Miami-Dade County.

The National Center for Lesbian Rights ( NCLR ) lauded the New York Legislature for passing the 2021 state budget bill, which includes historic language modernizing the state's surrogacy and assisted reproduction laws and making it easier for LGBTQ individuals to build families, a press release noted. NCLR said the inclusion of the Child-Parent Security Act in the budget bill marks a major victory for the Protecting Modern Families Coalition, of which NCLR is part. NCLR Deputy Director and Family Law Director Cathy Sakimura said, "The new law permits the use of surrogacy to create families while also creating the strongest protections in the country for people acting as surrogates. It also modernizes New York's assisted reproduction laws, including vital protections for low-income parents and unmarried parents, who are often excluded from these laws."

Children's author Jacqueline Wilson, 74, has come out after living with her partner for 18 years, Pride.com reported. Wilson has written best-selling books for kids over her long career, including the Tracy Beaker and Hetty Feather series—but it's the upcoming book #111, Love Frankie, that will feature a girl falling for another girl in her class. That's what prompted Wilson to come out even though the fact that she's been living with her partner, Trish, after divorcing her ex-husband has never been secret.

White House spokesman Judd Deere, who is himself gay, dismissed the notion that President Donald Trump can be any way linked to a rise in anti-LGBTQ hate groups in the United States, Queerty noted. The Southern Poverty Law Center ( SPLC ) recently published its annual report on hate groups and found there was a 43-percent increase in anti-LGBTQ hate groups ( despite the number of what it identifies as hate groups fell from a record of 1,020 in 2018 to 940 in 2019 ). Deere called SPLC a "far-left smear" organization and called its comments "disgusting."

A three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals used "an extraordinary measure" to allow Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to drastically restrict essential, time-sensitive abortion procedures using his COVID-19 executive order, according to a joint press release from Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the Center for Reproductive Rights and the Lawyering Project. A March 31 order stayed a temporary restraining order granted by a federal district court that would have helped ensure Texans have access to essential abortion care during the pandemic. Planned Parenthood Acting President/CEO Alexis McGill Johnson said, "How heartless do you have to be to, in a time of crisis, take extraordinary measures to take away people's health care? Abortion is essential health care, and it is urgent and time-sensitive."

In Colorado, some advocacy organizations have gone to court to get the state to provide housing for those experiencing homelessness as part of its COVID-19 respons, Colorado Public Radio reported. Lynn Thompson, an organizer with the Fort Collins Homeless Coalition, would like the state to make empty hotel rooms or apartments available during this crisis. Colorado statute "demands and mandates" the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment see after the public health of the state during times of crisis or declared emergency due to an epidemic.

In Virginia, the Hampton Roads Pride board of directors announced the postponement of their annual PrideFest and other events due to the coronavirus pandemic, The Washington Blade reported. "We are working with our partners to determine what options are available to celebrate later this year," said Hampton Roads Pride President Cole Werkheiser in a press release. PrideFest was scheduled to take place on June 19-21, and events included the ninth annual Pride Block Party, the second annual Pride at the Beach and other Pride Week celebrations.

Also, for the same reason, Family Equality has cancelled Family Week 2020 as well as its 11th annual Night at the Pier gala in New York City, a press release noted. However, the organization just rolled out The Neighborhood: A Virtual Hub for LGBTQ+ Families—a calendar of online videos, livestreams, and virtual meetups. See FamilyEquality.org/neighborhood/.

Chris Cuomo—the CNN anchor and brother of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo—said he has tested positive for coronavirus after experiencing a fever, chills and shortness of breath, Politico reported. He later said that he has experienced weight loss ( 13 pounds in three days ) and hallucinations, among other things, Extra noted. On a related note, CNN primetime anchor Don Lemon cried on air while discussing Cuomo's diagnosis, according to Yahoo! Entertainment. Lemon apologetically mentioned he was "distracted" while CNN senior global affairs analyst Bianna Golodryga told him what he's doing—being on-air during this time—"is tough."

A tiger at the Bronx Zoo in New York City has tested positive for the coronavirus, while several other animals are being monitored for similar symptoms, TheHill.com reported. In a press release, the Wildlife Conservation Society, which operates the zoo, said that the animals were likely infected by an asymptomatic carrier of the disease. It's the first known case of the virus being detected in an animal in the country as well as the first confirmed case in a tiger anywhere in the world.


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