Metro Weekly

COVID-19: Nonwhite LGBTQ people tested positive at double the rate of white straight people

New data from fall 2020 shows a stark difference in the impact of the pandemic on LGBTQ people and people of color

Doctor, COVID-19, test, swab
Photo: JC Gellidon on Unsplash

A recent study from the Williams Institute has highlighted the heightened impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on LGBTQ people of color, as compared to heterosexual white people. 

The Williams Institute, a UCLA School of Law think tank, collected data from 12,000 U.S. adults at the height of the fall 2020 surge in coronavirus cases, between August and December.

According to the underlying data trends, the personal and economic implications of the pandemic are significantly worse for LGBTQ people of color than for heterosexual white people.

Most notably, LGBTQ people of color tested positive for COVID-19 at double the rate of non-LGBTQ white people, and reported a higher rate of joblessness and financial instability.

While 7% of heterosexual white adults in the study had tested positive for COVID-19, 15% of LGBTQ people of color had tested positive for the virus.

One in three LGBTQ people of color also reported having closely known someone who died of Covid-19, as opposed to one in five heterosexual white respondents.  

There is also a sharp difference in job security between LGBTQ people and non-LGBTQ people, with 12.4% of LGBTQ people reporting being laid off, compared with 7.8% of heterosexual respondents.

The discrepancy between LGBTQ and non-LGBTQ people is further evident in the percentage of respondents that have been furloughed (14.1% vs. 9.7%), are struggling to pay for basic household necessities (23.5% vs. 16.8%), and are struggling to afford their rent or mortgage (19.9% vs. 11.7%).

When looking at LGBTQ people of color, the impact of COVID-19 is even greater, with 26% reporting difficulty paying their rent or mortgage, as opposed to 9% of non-LGBTQ white respondents. 

According to the study, LGBTQ people are more concerned about getting COVID-19 than heterosexual respondents (85.1% vs. 75.0%), and are also taking public health protocols more seriously.

Overall, 94% of LGBTQ people report regularly wearing a mask when outside their home, as opposed to 89.9% of heterosexual respondents. In addition, 80% of LGBTQ respondents reported following social distancing guidelines, compared to 75% of non-LGBTQ people.

In addition to health and economic disparities, LGBTQ people are also less likely than non-LGBTQ people to trust the federal government to properly inform the public about COVID-19 (31% to 38%) and less likely to trust pharmaceutical companies to have their best interests in mind (28% to 41%).

 In an interview with NBC News, Brad Sears, the author of the report and Interim Executive Director of the Williams Institute, said it was “no surprise” that the pandemic “has disproportionately impacted people of color, and it was not a surprise that this pandemic has disproportionately impacted LGBT people.”

He added: “Addressing these entrenched inequalities of race, ethnicity, sexuality and gender is the only way to get through this pandemic and to prevent the next one.”


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