Washington, D.C. – Today, Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-NY) led sixteen Members of Congress in sending a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) urging the Department to coordinate with state and local officials to collect data on how the COVID-19 virus is impacting LGBTQ+ individuals. The letter also asks HHS to make data on vaccine distribution within the LGBTQ+ community publicly available.
A recently released study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that members of the LGBTQ+ community were more likely to have common underlying conditions associated with worsened COVID-19 outcomes, such as asthma, stroke, cancer, heart disease, obesity, among others. Yet, given the increased risk and worsened outcomes, federal and state governments are not collecting or tracking sexual orientation or sexual identity as a demographic in their COVID-19 surveillance. Given that data drives public policy, it is critical we have all the relevant information available to ensure resources are not being denied to our most vulnerable communities.
“The data collected from this pandemic will provide lessons for emergency preparedness for years, if not decades, to come. If we fail to collect this data now, the LGBTQ+ community will likely be among the most vulnerable again when the next pandemic or health crisis hits,” the lawmakers wrote. “No patient should be required to identify themselves, given the longstanding stigma and discrimination faced by the LGBTQ+ community as well as the barriers to obtaining compassionate care. However, if we do not even attempt to ask basic demographic questions, we are contributing to the erasure of the LGBTQ+ community at a time of significant vulnerability.”
Rep. Torres is joined by Rep. Jan Schakowsky (IL-09), Rep. Yvette D. Clarke (NY-09), Rep. Alcee L. Hastings (FL-20), Rep. André Carson (IN-07), Rep. Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez (NY-07), Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (AZ-03), Rep. Ed Case (HI-01), Rep. Jahana Hayes (CT-05), Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18), Rep. Jerrold Nadler (NY-10), Rep. Adriano Espaillat (NY-13), Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (NY-12), Rep. Jamaal Bowman, Ed.D. (NY-16), and Rep. Mondaire Jones (NY-17), and Rep. Grace Meng (NY-06) in this letter to HHS.
You can read the full letter here or below.