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Coronavirus

WeHo’s virus numbers not unique; Duran on sex in a pandemic

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West Hollywood’s name has been mentioned frequently when discussing the COVID-19 crisis, and not necessarily for the best of reasons. The city was widely publicized as being a kind of epicenter for the Los Angeles County outbreak after it appeared to have the highest number of reported cases outside of LA proper. Add to that the publicity around the COVID-19 illness of the city’s Mayor, John D’Amico.

But the numbers to support that narrative did not hold and the numbers have been changing for a variety of reasons.

As of Tuesday afternoon, March 31, of the cities within LA County, West Hollywood – which has its own coronavirus webpage — had the third highest number of reported cases, 56, behind Glendale at 76. Other cites also reported high numbers: Torrance reported 53 cases; Santa Monica 49, and Santa Clarita 48.

But not unexpectedly, the City of Los Angeles itself reported 1,386 cases. Within those city limits and close to West Hollywood, Melrose reported 100 cases, Hollywood reported 61.

That other cities and unincorporated areas report far fewer or zero cases is widely believed a result of having less access to healthcare and testing sites.

West Hollywood Mayor Pro-Tem Lindsey Horvath concurs, telling the Los Angeles Blade that the numbers are nothing unusual within the whole of LA County.

“We have not gotten any indication that there’s anything ‘unique’ to West Hollywood that accounts for our numbers, as they are comparable to neighborhoods that mirror our size and density,” said Horvath.

“What I personally think is that more people have access to good healthcare resources and testing in this area, and so we have more people that have had the good fortune of being tested. I am concerned for areas that are not reporting higher numbers, especially due to a lack of access to testing. We need to work hard to make more testing facilities available as quickly as possible so we know who has it and can treat them accordingly. I’d rather see higher numbers here because we’re getting people tested and getting them care than not testing and not knowing.”

D’Amico, who is also HIV positive, is reportedly on the mend from his case of coronavirus, telling friends on Facebook that he passed the necessary days of quarantine post-symptoms and is now feeling physically better. He displayed his progress by posting a video of him walking his dogs.

Since West Hollywood is also known as a bastion for LGBTQ rights and sexual freedom, questions about the role sexual culture might play in the outbreak of COVID-19 have logically arisen. For instance: how and when might the sexually active among us be able to resume normal sexual activity, which for many, involves anonymous hookups?

It’s a question West Hollywood Councilmember John Duran — who is also HIV positive — tackled forthrightly on March 28 in one of his daily coronavirus update Facebook posts, which set off a firestorm of comments amongst its readers.

“Push for hookup apps to be shut down during these days,” read one comment. “I know close people that are actually on [the apps]. It’s really counter active.”

“The apps,” as they are called colloquially, refer to Grindr, Scruff and other such dating apps gay men use to meet hookups. Both of these apps have issued warnings to users at various points in the last weeks, encouraging chatting versus meeting up and reiterating public health guidelines.

“It would take something from the federal government,” Duran said, to shut down operation of hookup apps. “Don’t have the power.”

“From my personal interactions, people are just chatting,” he continued. “For the most part people are self-quarantining. They just want to interact. People are suddenly being forced to engage in conversation.”

Duran pointed out that while sexual intercourse itself is not necessarily an effective means of transmitting the virus, COVID-19 is casually transmitted so touching and kissing can spread the coronavirus.

“We are all trying to avoid close contact with others right now to starve the virus of host,” Duran said. “That is the whole point of isolating. So you should have as few contacts on the outside as possible. By definition, this means as few sexual partners as possible also. This is not forever. This is just for this moment. It will pass.”

Duran recommended other methods of intimacy.

“This doesn’t preclude phone sex, video sex on FaceTime or other apps and masturbation,” he wrote. “If you need human contact, it is still available through modern technology. I know it’s not the same. But this is not forever. This is just for now so we stay alive.” (See Duran’s Facebook post below)

Every day brings new numbers and new recommendations.

Check the LA County website for constant updates and resources.

Locally, Duran provides daily updates and shares fears, hopes and inspiration on his Facebook page.

One suggestion on how to beat the boredom of staying safer at home is to be creative. For instance, someone posted a video in which one can image Beyonce singing about putting a ring on it as a game involving a dildo and a robot vacuum.

Here’s John Duran’s honest and useful sex post:

John Jude Duran

March 28 at 2:53 PM ·

 

Not the usual daily update BUT WHAT ABOUT SEX DURING A PANDEMIC?

 

If you are sensitive about sexual information or discussions, do not read the rest of this post.

 

One of the things we did during the AIDS epidemic is we created SAFER SEX practices. My friend Seth Browning pointed out that it is listed on Abraham Maslow’s Theory of Hierarchy. It’s right above the need for safety: friendship, family and sexual intimacy. He also suggested that I post this information since we are all in the same THIRST for human intimacy and contact.

 

IS IT EVEN APPROPRIATE TO HAVE THIS DISCUSSION DURING A CRISIS? A crisis that lasts one week or two – probably not. We can all abstain if need be. But a crisis that continues for weeks and possibly months (and maybe annually) – ok – now we need to think this through a bit.

 

Because denying sexual intimacy for long periods of time will lead to human misery. Is sex worth risking your life over? No. But is it possible to develop guidelines for safer sexual practices to minimize risk? Yes. I think so.

 

How do we do that during COVID? It’s not going to be the same as HIV/AIDS. Some similarities. Some differences.

 

Let’s start with some facts:

 

*. COVID is spread by droplets in the air when someone sneezes or coughs.

*COVID is spread by saliva and mucous.

*COVID HAS been found in feces of persons infected.

COVID HAS NOT been found in semen or vaginal fluids.

 

*So unlike HIV or other STI’s – COVID is not spread effectively through intercourse. However, some caveats to consider:

 

During sexual play COVID can be spread through

* Kissing. It’s the most effective way to transmit actually. With HIV, we told everyone that KISSING is 100% safe. IT was and still is. That is NOT the Case with COVID!

*Rimming. Definitely a means of transmission and to be avoided. While ok with HIV – not OK with COVID.

 

So, what’s the most effective strategy from here?

 

*Let’s start with the obvious. WE ARE ON LOCKDOWN AND QUARANTINE. So, the best method is to stay and home and avoid contact with others for all reasons – including sex! For the most part, we are all doing this. But if this goes on for weeks/months, it is going to get more difficult as time goes on.

 

This doesn’t preclude phone sex, video sex on FaceTime or other apps and masturbation. If you need human contact, it is still available through modern technology. I know it’s not the same. But this is not forever. This is just for now so we stay alive.

 

And for the record – goes without saying – but intimacy is possible without any sex at all! We know that. But for the sake of discussion, let’s continue.

 

*If you have a partner (and you’re still speaking LOL) and you live together and are sexually monogamous – you have hours to play (if you wish). If you have been together for over 20 years – there’s always TIGER KING! (LOL)

 

*If you have a partner and you do not LIVE together – this is a limited contact. Just understand that anyone that you came in contact with while shopping for groceries or other trips around town that were necessary – places you and your partner to some risk with those contacts. It is the same level of risk that we take when we leave our homes on that rare occasion for food and other necessities.

 

* We are all trying to avoid close contact with others right now to starve the virus of hosts. That is the whole point of isolating. So you should have as few contacts on the outside as possible. By definition, this means as few sexual partners as possible also. This is not forever. This is just for this moment. It will pass.

 

*Condoms and dental dams can reduce the risk of COVID transmission. Especially during oral sex. This time it IS the SALIVA that you are trying to avoid contact with rather than other bodily fluids. THIS IS A BIG DIFFERENCE between HIV and COVID. With HIV – it was semen or blood. With COVID – it is saliva.

 

*Drug use impairs judgment. Generally a bad idea anyways. An EXTREMELY bad idea during an epidemic.

 

Now, don’t judge me too harshly. I am not writing this to encourage people to break quarantine. I am writing this as a pragmatist realizing that this isolation may continue for weeks or longer. And if that occurs, we are going to be seeking information and scientific facts to create safer sex practices during an epidemic. I write this – because it is responsible to have adult conversations about this topic.

 

Consider this the “SATURDAY NIGHT” update for Conoronavirus “AFTER DARK”.

 

Thanks for letting me address a topic that needed to be placed on the table.

Karen Ocamb contributed to this story.

 

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Coronavirus

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

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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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Coronavirus

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”

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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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Coronavirus

COVID-19 Cases increase by nearly 10 times in one month

While hospitalizations continue to climb, Public Health data shows that many positive cases are admitted for reasons other than COVID

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Graphic courtesy of UCLA/Centers for Disease Control & Prevention

LOS ANGELES – A total of 31,576 new COVID-19 cases were documented on Monday — up ten times the number of cases reported on Dec. 17, 2021, when there were 3,360 new cases recorded the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health reported Monday.

There are  4,564 people with COVID-19 currently hospitalized, nearly 6 times the number from one month ago when 772 people were hospitalized. The daily positivity rate is 16.5%, more than 8 times the 2% daily positivity rate on December 17th.

Just one week ago, the county surpassed 2 million total COVID-19 cases, with the figure reaching 2,289,045 cases as of Monday.

“On this national holiday where we celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, we remember his deep commitment to health equity.  As Reverend King memorably said, ‘Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health is the most shocking and the most inhuman because it often results in physical death,’ ” said Dr. Barbara Ferrer, Director of Public Health.

“Tragically, we have seen this play out in real life and very clearly over the past two years with the disparate impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on people of color. From the onset of the pandemic, communities of color have experienced the greatest devastation from COVID-19 in Los Angeles County and throughout the nation,” she added.

“The good news is that while hospitalizations continue to climb, Public Health data shows that many positive cases are admitted for reasons other than COVID but, are identified with COVID when tested for COVID upon hospital admission,” the health department said in a statement released last week.

As of Friday, more than 80% of all adult ICU beds in the county were occupied.

There are also 27 new deaths due to COVID-19 in Los Angeles County and 31,576 new positive cases.

The public health department also noted that while the number of children hospitalized with the virus remains low, the number of them admitted to L.A. County hospitals “significantly increased” over the past month, with the largest increase among children younger than 5 years old.

The increase mirrors trends seen nationwide for the age group — the only one not yet eligible for the vaccine.

The county also saw its highest coronavirus death rate in nearly 10 months over this past week, with an average of 40 COVID-19 deaths a day.

“From the onset of the pandemic, communities of color have experienced the greatest devastation from COVID-19 in Los Angeles County and throughout the nation. As we continue to implement strategies – enforcing worker protections through our Health Officer Orders, providing resources needed by many to survive the impact of the pandemic, funding community-based organizations in hard hit areas to serve as trusted public health messengers, and increasing vaccination access in under-sourced neighborhoods – we also need to come together to address the impact that racism, historical disinvestment, and social marginalization have on COVID-19 outcomes,” Ferrer said.

“While these conditions predate the pandemic, without deliberate collective actions to address the root causes of health inequities, we are unlikely to close the gaps we have documented for 2 long years,” she added.

California has recorded more than 7 million coronavirus cases after its fastest accumulation of reported infections in the history of the pandemic, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The unprecedented count, recorded in California’s databases late Monday, comes one week after the state tallied its 6 millionth coronavirus case.

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