Press Release: Concerning Coronavirus and the LGBTQ+ Communities

For Immediate Release

March 13, 2020

Contact: CapitolLGBTQ@gmail.com

CONCERNING CORONAVIRUS AND THE LGBTQ+ COMMUNITIES

For the health and safety of all of our members, the Capitol LGBTQ Association will be suspending all of its public events until further notice in response to the current health risks associated with the novel coronavirus, a.k.a. COVID-19.

As we lean into a future that changes by the hour, it is important for us to share some practical steps and precautions in our community. We encourage our members and allies to make smart, measured decisions to take care of our LGBTQ+ family. The following information can also be found in press releases from the California Department of Public Health, Governor Newsom’s Office, and from an open letter from over 100 organizations outlining coronavirus and the LGBTQ+ communities.

As a reminder to all individuals handling COVID-19 monitoring, response, treatment, and media coverage, LGBTQ+ communities are among those who are particularly vulnerable to the negative health effects of this virus. Our increased vulnerability is a direct result of three factors:

  1. The LGBTQ+ population uses tobacco at rates that are 50% higher than cisgender, heterosexual people (Buchting et al., 2017; Creamer et al., 2019.). COVID-19 is a respiratory disease that has proven especially harmful to smokers. Smoking (and likely using e-cigarettes as well) reduces an individual’s immunity to respiratory diseases and makes recovery from these diseases take longer.
  2. The LGBTQ+ population has higher rates of HIV and cancer, which means a greater number of us may have compromised immune systems, leaving us more vulnerable to COVID-19 infections.
  3. LGBTQ+ people continue to experience discrimination, unwelcoming reactions, and a lack of understanding from providers and staff in many health care settings. As a result, many are reluctant to seek medical care except in situations that feel urgent – and perhaps not even then.

The Capitol LGBTQ Association is developing a continuity plan that will allow our board members to practice social distancing while serving their roles on the board.

“Changing our actions for a short period of time will save the life of one or more people you know,” Governor Newsom said in a statement. “That’s the choice before us. Each of us has extraordinary power to slow the spread of this disease. Not holding that concert or community event can have cascading effects — saving dozens of lives and preserving critical health care resources that your family may need a month from now. The people in our lives who are most at risk – seniors and those with underlying health conditions — are depending on all of us to make the right choice.”

All individuals should follow guidance from public health officials. Every person has a role to play to limit the spread of COVID-19. Here are a number of steps you can take to prevent the spread of the coronavirus:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water.
  • Eat well, stay hydrated, and get plenty of sleep.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. 
  • Cover your cough or sneeze.
  • Stay away from work, school, or other people if you become sick.

Depending on your role, there are other ways you can help appropriately serve our LGBTQ+ communities, such as:

  • Ensuring that media coverage notes the particular vulnerabilities of any person with pre-existing respiratory illnesses, compromised immune systems or who uses tobacco products. While populations – like LGBTQ+ communities – can be at increased risk, it is important to note the overall state of health that contributes to any person’s increased vulnerability to contracting COVID-19.
  • Ensuring health messaging includes information tailored to communities at increased risk for COVID-19, including LGBTQ+ populations. An example of such tailored messaging is including imagery of LGBTQ+ persons in any graphic ads.
  • Providing LGBTQ+ individuals resources to find welcoming providers, such as the ones provided here, if they are experiencing symptoms like a cough or fever and need to seek medical attention.
  • Ensuring funding to community health centers is distributed in a fashion that accounts for the additional burden anticipated by LGBTQ-identified health centers.
  • Whenever possible ensuring health agencies partner with community-based organizations to get messaging out through channels we trust.
  • Ensuring surveillance efforts capture sexual orientation and gender identity as part of routine demographics.
  • Ensuring health workers are directed to provide equal care to all regardless of their actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity/presentation, ability, age, national origin, immigration status, race, or ethnicity.
  • Ensuring that all COVID-19 responses take into account exceptionally vulnerable members of the LGBTQ+ communities, including our elders, bi people, and black and brown trans and gender nonconforming/nonbinary people.
  • Since xenophobic responses are heavily impacting the Asian American communities, ensuring all communications and responses related to COVID-19 attempt to counter any such xenophobic responses, avoid racial profiling, and discourage the public from doing so as well.
  • Ensuring LGBTQ+ health leadership, along with all providers and health care centers, are provided with timely and accurate information to disseminate.

We have an opportunity to make a community impact by regularly washing our hands, postponing our events, and adhering to the direction being given by leaders and medical professionals. Let’s practice patience and kindness with one another, and take only what we need. Creating space to care for your mental and physical wellness will be a key component in the coming days. Please never hesitate to reach out to our Board members if you need anything, we are here to support you. Thank you for taking the time to read this message. We look forward to seeing you all in the near future.

 

Sincerely,

Capitol LGBTQ Association Board Members

 

Alina Hernandez, President

Jimmy Wittrock, Vice President

Wesley Whitaker, Treasurer

Grayson Doucette, Operations Director

William Muetzenberg, Membership Director

John Patrick Hanna, Communications Director

Karen L. Jones, Events Director

Tami Martin, Community Outreach Director

Christian Vierra, External Affairs Director

Kaila Cooper, Intern/Fellows Liaison