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Coronavirus is like an STD

Biggest concern is asymptomatic folks, says Celina Alvarez



“He hit me up,” my friend said on FaceTime to create some semblance of intimacy while social distancing.

“Hit you up? As in hook up? Meaning have sex?” I ask.

“Does he know that the coronavirus is a sexually transmitted disease?” I ask, flummoxed. “He doesn’t even have to take his hoodie off. He can catch it before walking into the apartment.”

Because the virus is silent for a period of time, the young and the old alike may not be aware they have it or are spreading it – and they apparently don’t know they could die from it.

Peter Cashman, a co-founder of ACT UP/LA, sits in his car at Trader Joe’s while a friend does his shopping. He is fuming at how the the National LGBTQ Task Force made the “suicidal decision” to green-light its recent “White Party” fundraiser on Miami’s South Beach.

“The event allegedly took extra precautions for attendees, handing out 10,000 hand sanitizer bottles and hygiene information guides for festival goers,” The Hill reported. “Reports from organizers say that none of the attendees experienced symptoms during the festival.”

Executive Director Rea Carey told The Hill that “the real story” was not how many attendees might have been infected but rather “that millions of people across the country would like to get tested, and the government has not done its job to make testing available.”

No, the “real story” is that Task Force did not cancel the event, says Cashman. “What people with HIV/AIDS need right now is specific medical/scientific information related to their positive status and COVID-19,” which, Cashman says, he has not received from his HIV specialist.

Richard Ayoub, executive director of Project Angel Food, has been delivering facts with food.

“Because people with HIV/AIDS are immune compromised, it makes them more susceptible to the virus that is highly contagious,” he tells the Los Angeles Blade. “Project Angel Food continues to serve the 1,600 people living with critical illness who rely on us every day, and we have added three weeks of shelf stable meals for every client, just in case we can’t reach them in an emergency. We can’t close down—we are a vital service.”

The general public doesn’t realize how much income from fundraisers sustain the budgets of organizations like Project Angel Food or those who fund others. Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, for instance, is the single largest financial supporter of The Actors Fund. In February, Project Angel Food received $40,000 from the Actors Fund to “reach out to L.A.’s LGBTQ homeless,” says Tom Viola, BCEFA’s Executive Director.

But Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS is taking “a huge hit” because of COVID-19. “Last year’s campaign raised over $6 million. We’ll take a $5 million hit on this one, likely forcing us to suspend the last two grant rounds of our annual National Grants Program,” Viola says.

“As you can imagine,” says Darrel Cummings, chief of staff at the Los Angeles LGBT Center, “providing the amount of services we do and to such a large number of people has presented lots of challenges that we have been working to resolve.  It has been my goal to maintain the vital services — medical, mental health, pharmacy, housing, etc.— that are most needed while at the same time reducing the numbers of people — clients, staff, and volunteers — in our physical space as much as possible.

The Center deals with a variety of situations from medical and mental health issues to age and homelessness that make them more vulnerable to COVID-19.

“Each day brings a new challenge that we have to learn how to properly manage but we are staying nimble enough to respond as best we can,” says Cummings.

Housing Works Executive Director Celina Alvarez is working to maintain their satellite program, Young Burlington Apartments, a 20-unit permanent supportive housing building for 18-24-year-olds who generally distrust adults.

“We are doing what we can to stay in consistent communication with these young people who are scared and unsure about what the future holds,” she says. “The onsite support services staff, including myself, have been in contact with the tenants at YB to check on them and assess their needs and any health symptoms they are experiencing at this time.  Our job is to educate, educate, educate them about COVID-19 so that they can make informed decisions as we all learn to walk through this new era.”

But testing is scarce. “Unless you come from a certain income/social status bracket, the rest of us don’t have a chance at really finding out who amongst us is a carrier,” she says. “My biggest concerns are the asymptomatic folks.”

Cashman notes that summoning the strength to fight yet another herculean battle like the coronavirus and its spawn will not be easy for LGBTQ community. And this on top of all the other many ancillary battles. Now there will be even more complex emotions to disentangle on a daily basis.

“But overwhelmingly there is a special place in hell for our utterly failed White House leadership whose negligence, greed and criminality is now killing us,” Cashman says, adding not so metaphorically: “Bring back the guillotine!”

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L.A. County on track to bring back mandatory indoor masking

If LA county stays in CDC designated High Community Level for 2 consecutive weeks officials would implement a universal indoor masking



Photo Credit: County of Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health indicated that if the upward trend in coronavirus numbers continues, due to the increased circulation of the more infectious BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron subvariants coupled with increased community spread, officials may order a return to indoor masks.

On Friday, Public Health said that while the county currently remains at the CDC designated COVID-19 Medium Community Level. There are increasing concerns about the impact of new Omicron sub-variants on transmission and hospitalizations that could result in the County moving into the High Community Level designation sometime later this summer.

Barbara Ferrer, Director of LA County Public Health expressed concern and cautioned Angelenos as the region prepares for the July 4th holiday weekend.

“Since July 4 is right around the corner and many of us are looking forward to celebrating Independence Day with family and friends, it is important to remember that many of our loved ones may be older adults, or have serious underlying health conditions, or not yet been vaccinated and boosted,” Ferrer said.

“Given the rising number of COVID cases and hospitalizations, and the increased circulation of the more infectious BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants, it is extra important to take steps that reduce the risk of transmission especially over the long holiday weekend; this helps us protect ourselves, our families, and our community,” She continued adding, “With a little planning, you can have a great time celebrating while keeping each other safe. Please be sure to remind friends and family to stay home and skip the celebration if they feel sick or have tested positive.  It is also a great idea for everyone to test themselves before getting together, ideally on the day of the gathering. It is always best to celebrate outdoors, and if people come indoors for part of the gathering, wearing a mask is advisable, particularly if there are individuals at high risk of severe illness should they become infected.”

LA County Public Health pointed out in a statement that six of the seven Early Alert metrics Public Health are tracking continue to convey cause for Medium or High Concern. Moreover, in the past week, four Early Alert Signals moved upward in the level of concern: The case rate in the lowest income areas and the number of new outbreaks at Skilled Nursing Facilities per week, both moved up to High Concern.

The number of new outbreaks in settings for People Experiencing Homelessness is now at Medium Concern. And the number of worksite clusters increased, moving from Medium to High Concern for the first time since Public Health started tracking this metric in early March.

There was also an uptick in the percentage of Emergency Department Visits. The only measure indicating Low Concern is the number of sewer systems with a two-fold increase in viral load.

The first of two hospital metrics in the CDC Community Levels Framework is the seven-day total of new hospital admissions per 100,000, which rose this past week to 8.1 admissions per 100,000 people. This is a 56% increase compared to one month ago. The second hospital metric, the seven-day average for the proportion of staffed inpatient beds occupied by COVID-19 patients, also increased this past week to 4.2%.

If the county moves into the CDC designated High Community Level and remains there for two consecutive weeks, the county would implement a universal indoor masking requirement for everyone age 2 and older in LA County as a safety measure aligned with the CDC framework. The safety measure would remain in effect until the county returned to the CDC Medium Community Level designation, or lower, for two consecutive weeks. 

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CDC: 85% of gay & lesbian adults in U.S. are vaccinated against COVID

Data on COVID-19 vaccination among LGBTQ persons limited because of the lack of routine SOGI data collection at the national & state levels



Photo Credit: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/GSA

ATLANTA – A new study report released Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, (CDC), found that found 85.4% of gay and lesbian Americans above age 18 had received at least one vaccine dose as of October 2021.

The study, conducted from August 29 until October 30, 2021, also found that by comparison, only 76.3% of heterosexuals reported receiving at least an initial dose by the same date.

The report noted that Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) populations have higher prevalence of health conditions associated with severe COVID-19 illness compared with non-LGBT populations.

The potential for low vaccine confidence and coverage among LGBT populations is of concern because these persons historically experience challenges accessing, trusting, and receiving health care services

Data on COVID-19 vaccination among LGBT persons are limited, in part because of the lack of routine data collection on sexual orientation and gender identity at the national and state levels.

In March of 2021, the Blade reported the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has revealed deep-seated inequities in health care for communities of color and amplifies social and economic factors that have contributed to those communities being hit hardest, and Mega-vaccination centers set up by California health officials and the Federal Emergency Management Agency have been addressing and tracking the issue- the LGBTQ communities are still not being tracked.

This lack of data collection has frustrated and angered California State Senator Scott Wiener who authored a bill last year that passed through the legislature and signed by Governor Gavin Newsom last Fall that mandates gathering sexual orientation and gender identity data related to the COVID testing in California.

“We’re one year into the pandemic, and LGBTQ people continue to be erased in our public health response to COVID-19 — similar to our invisibility throughout history. No government is successfully tracking COVID-19 cases in the LGBTQ community, despite a law I wrote mandating that California do so,” Weiner told the Blade. “And, we now know that LGBTQ people are more vulnerable to COVID-19. We’ve also just learned that vaccination demographic data doesn’t include LGBTQ data. It simply shocking that in 2021, progressive health agencies continue to forget about our community,” he added.

The CDC also noted that gay and lesbian adults were more likely to be concerned about COVID-19 and to believe in the safety and efficacy of vaccines.

“We know that the prevalence of certain health conditions associated with severe COVID-19 illness, such as cancer, smoking, and obesity, are higher in LGBT populations, and access to health care continues to be an issue for some people in the LGBT community,” Dr. A.D. McNaghten, a member of the CDC’s COVID-19 Emergency Response Team and corresponding author of the study, told ABC News. “We wanted to see if vaccination coverage among LGBT persons was the same as non-LGBT persons.”

The CDC data recorded that bisexual and transgender adults had similar vaccination rates to heterosexual adults with 72.6% of bisexual adults fully vaccinated by the end of October, as were 71.4% of transgender adults. The numbers however for Black and Hispanic lesbian women had lower rates of vaccination at 57.9% and 72.6%, respectively, compared to Black and Hispanic heterosexual women at 75.6% and 80.5%, respectively.

Higher percentages of gay or lesbian adults and bisexual adults reported that they thought COVID-19 vaccine was very or somewhat important to protect oneself (90.8% and 86.8%, respectively) compared with heterosexual adults (80.4%), and higher percentages of adults who identified as transgender or nonbinary reported they thought COVID-19 vaccine was very or somewhat important to protect oneself (83.2%) compared with those who did not identify as transgender or nonbinary (80.7%).

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White House orders distribution of 400 million free N95 masks

Dr. Tom Inglesby, the administration’s Covid testing coordinator; “We know that these masks provide better protection than cloth masks”



President Joe Biden (Blade file photo/screenshot)

WASHINGTON – As the latest surge of the highly contagious and easily transmissible Omicron variant of the coronavirus continues to cause a rise in hospitalizations, especially among unvaccinated adults and children, the White House announced Wednesday it is making 400 million N95 masks available for free at thousands of locations across the nation.

The plan an admkistartion official said, is to start shipping the nonsurgical masks to pharmacies and community health centers to distribute this week, which will come from the Strategic National Stockpile.

In an interview with NBC News, Dr. Tom Inglesby, the administration’s Covid testing coordinator, said, “We know that these masks provide better protection than cloth masks.”

The N95 masks will be made available to everybody, and recipients will not be prioritized based on vulnerability to Covid, income or other criteria. Inglesby said the administration was “confident that people who want to access them will be able to access them,” but it was not immediately clear how many masks a person could receive at one time.

On January 13, President Joe Biden had announced a plan to have the government distribute 1 billion rapid, at-home COVID-19 tests free to Americans, along with the N95 masks, as the administration works to fight the spiraling upward spike in coronavirus cases.

The White House website to order free at-home Covid tests went live Tuesday. The website says: “Every home in the U.S. is eligible to order 4 free at-home COVID-19 tests. The tests are completely free. Orders will usually ship in 7-12 days.”

A White House official said Wednesday that the distribution of 400 million masks would be the largest deployment of personal protective equipment in U.S. history.

Inglesby told NBC News that the administration was “absolutely preparing for the possibility of additional variants in the future” and that people could expect the government to make N95 masks “more and more available.”

Biden announces free masks, tests to fight omicron:

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