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SACRAMENTO, Calif. July 28, 2020 — California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly announced new emergency regulations from the California Department of Public Health on Tuesday immediately requiring healthcare providers and local health departments to collect and report voluntary data on the gender identity and sexual orientation of patients to understand how the LGBTQ+ community is being impacted by COVID-19. Equality California, the nation’s largest statewide LGBTQ+ civil rights organization, and California Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) have advocated for the collection and reporting of LGBTQ+ COVID-19 data for months and introduced legislation (SB 932) in May to require such data collection and reporting. The bill was recently amended to cover all reportable diseases.
Equality California released the following statement from Executive Director Rick Chavez Zbur after Dr. Ghaly’s announcement:
“The COVID-19 crisis has devastated the LGBTQ+ community. But for months, we haven’t had the data to understand how, why or exactly what to do about it. From the beginning of this crisis, we have been clear: If LGBTQ+ people are left out of COVID-19 data, we will be left out of California’s data-driven response. Thanks to Governor Newsom’s leadership and his administration’s hard work, we will start to have answers.
“We appreciate that the governor, his staff, Dr. Ghaly and Dr. Angell understood the urgency of this problem and worked to ensure that this critical data is collected and reported. This data will finally give our government, our public health leaders and our community an understanding of the degree to which this pandemic is devastating LGBTQ+ people — and what steps need to be taken to save lives.
“Today’s victory also highlights the need for the Legislature to pass and the governor to sign Senator Wiener’s SB 932, which will codify these data collection requirements for every existing reportable disease and any new threat to our community’s health and well-being that may emerge. We must never allow a vulnerable community like ours to be ignored or erased again.”
The California Senate passed SB 932 unanimously on June 25, 2020. The bill has been referred to the Assembly Committee on Health, where it is currently scheduled to be heard on Tuesday, August 4. If passed and signed into law, the bill would take effect immediately. The bill is co-authored by all members of the California Legislative LGBTQ Caucus, as well as Assemblymember David Chiu (D-San Francisco), and co-sponsored by Equality California and the California LGBTQ Health and Human Services Network.
Because rates of respiratory issues (from smoking), HIV/AIDS, cancer and homelessness are higher in the LGBTQ+ community, LGBTQ+ people are likely experiencing greater health impacts from COVID-19. Additionally, LGBTQ+ people are more likely to work in the service industry and in front-line jobs.
In May, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf announced that the Commonwealth would be the first state to begin collecting sexual orientation and gender identity data. Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced on Friday, June 19, that the County of Los Angeles had begun collecting data on sexual orientation and gender identity for all patients who receive a COVID-19 test through their free testing program. As of Tuesday, July 28, that data has not yet been reported through the county’s COVID-19 Surveillance Dashboard.
Equality California is the nation’s largest statewide LGBTQ+ civil rights organization. We bring the voices of LGBTQ+ people and allies to institutions of power in California and across the United States, striving to create a world that is healthy, just, and fully equal for all LGBTQ+ people. We advance civil rights and social justice by inspiring, advocating and mobilizing through an inclusive movement that works tirelessly on behalf of those we serve. www.eqca.org