Metro Weekly

HRC warns of COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on black and LGBTQ communities

LGBTQ organization calls on Congress to tailor future stimulus bills to address health disparities

hrc, covid-19, lgbtq, black, minority, coronavirus
Alphonso David — Photo: Todd Franson

The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s top LGBTQ advocacy organization, issued a statement warning of the disproportionate impact that COVID-19 is having on marginalized populations, including African-Americans and LGBTQ people.

In a statement released Thursday morning, HRC President Alphonso David called on state and federal governments to collect more data on the effects of the virus on black and LGBTQ communities.

David also urged Congress to take those disparities into account when crafting any future stimulus bills intended to provide relief for Americans devastated — both health-wise and economically — by the pandemic.

“As in all emergencies, the most vulnerable are the most at risk during the COVID-19 crisis,” David said 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.

“We cannot ignore the role that bias plays in health disparities, and for that reason HRC has long called for inclusive data collection to ensure that all people are counted,” he added. “Today, we call on every state to collect more data so that we can truly measure the impact on those most at risk and respond with prevention and treatment strategies that work.”

HRC previously published a research brief outlining what it sees as health and economic risks facing the LGBTQ community amid the pandemic.

For instance, the organization has noted that LGBTQ people are more likely to work in jobs that are either affected by shutdowns related to the coronavirus, such as K-12 education, higher education, or “non-essential” retail businesses, or in “front-line” jobs that make it difficult for them to socially distance, such as in the health care or food service industries.

Additionally, HRC and a number of other LGBTQ advocacy organizations, including medical centers like Whitman-Walker Health, have previously penned an open letter pointing to health disparities, including higher rates of smoking, higher rates of HIV or other diseases that leave people with compromised immune systems, and lower rates of people with health insurance, that make the LGBTQ community more vulnerable to COVID-19. The organizations also raised the prospect of discrimination by health care workers as an obstacle to people seeking care. 

That letter sparked criticism from a conservative Washington Examiner columnist Brad Polumbo, who is openly gay. Polumbo accused the signatories to that letter of attempting to “fuel the fake victimhood narrative they need to keep their donor base engaged.” That in turn, sparked a response from some of the letter’s other signatories who attempted to rebut some of the points he had made.

With respect to black communities, HRC has pointed to alarming statistics showing that in Michigan, for example, blacks account for 35% of confirmed COVID-19 cases and 40% of deaths, despite representing only 14% of the state population.

The organization says this underscores the need for better and more comprehensive data to get to the root causes for why some marginalized communities are being disparately impacted, and take action to fix those problems.

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