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Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia practices physical distancing



“Leadership, I’m discovering at this moment, can be found everywhere,” said California Gov. Gavin Newsom, leader of 40 million Californians and the world’s fifth-largest economy, during his March 30 news conference regarding the 25,000 health care professionals and students volunteering to fight the COVID-19 crisis. “I’ve never been more damn inspired in my life.”

After President Trump downplayed the coronavirus outbreak as a “hoax,” many frightened people turned to the nation’s governors and local leaders for calm, accurate, straightforward information, including Newsom and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.

By March 4 when Newsom declared a state of emergency to prepare for the broader spread of COVID-19, approximately 215 coronavirus cases had been diagnosed in 16 states. The federal government finally declared a National State of Emergency on March 13.

While perhaps not as nationally visible, Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia has been front and center since Feb. 28 to report to his 470,000 constituents through regular newsletters and media briefings on FacebookTwitter and local cable channels Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at 3 p.m. The city also has a coronavirus webpage with resources, as well as Alert Long Beach enabling those who sign up to receive emergency notifications to their mobile phone and/or email address.

No doubt these initiatives are the result of Garcia’s bachelor’s degree in Communication from Cal State Long Beach, Masters in Communication from USC, plus a doctorate in education from Cal State.

Garcia joined Newsom on March 4 in declaring a state of emergency, an important move since Long Beach has its own public health department, which now coordinates with LA County and the federal Centers for Disease Control on tracking and combatting the outbreak.

“We are over about 115-120 positive cases and that number will go up today when we get the numbers,” Garcia tells the Los Angeles Blade during a March 31 phone interview.

“We’ve had one death so far. We expect our numbers increasing by 50% every few days. We think we’re at where most of the state is — which is hopefully, we’ll hit that peak in a couple weeks and we’ll hopefully start to see this thing decrease. We’re still going to have to be vigilant to make sure that this doesn’t come back in the fall.”

Two hours later, Garcia announced the city now had 123 positive test results, with that one fatality on March 23.

“In a city that covers 53 square miles and is home to nearly half a million people, we need people to self-regulate, because the police and our health inspectors simply can’t be everywhere at once,” to enforce the Safer at Home ordinance, he says. “What’s crucial right now is that we continue staying at home, avoid contact with people outside our households and practice physical distancing and proper hygiene.”

Garcia adds, “Keeping the virus from spreading literally saves lives…We are going to get through this together.”

How different the world was just two months earlier as Garcia took former Vice President Joe Biden on a Jan. 9 tour of the $1.5 billion Gerald Desmond Bridge Replacement Project to connect the economically critical Long Beach port with the Port of Los Angeles and the Vincent Thomas Bridge.

“Here’s the deal: this is the future,” Biden said on the tour, just hours after Garcia, formerly a major Kamala Harris backer, endorsed him for president. “The future of the country is overseas trade.”

The project has been a major focus for the 43-year-old gay Latino from Peru, who was first elected to the city council in April 2009 to much fanfare as the council’s youngest, first Latino male, and first gay person of color. He became Long Beach’s first gay mayor in 2014 with 52.1% of the vote.

In addition to tourism, Garcia wanted to increase the city’s economic and technological profile. But then came Trump and now the coronavirus, impacting the second largest container port in America. According to the LA Times, Long Beach and the LA ports serve more than 200,000 businesses shipping some $500 billion in cargo a year.

“The overall impact is not only on the regional economy, it is on the national economy,” Mario Cordero, executive director of the Port of Long Beach, told The Times for a March 7 story. “We are ground zero for Asian imports. We were already down because of the trade war. With the coronavirus, we’ve gone from uncertainty to potential chaos.”

According to The Times, “1 in 9 Southern California jobs are tied to the ports.” Garcia is trying to mitigate that through a “Work Long Beach” initiative announced on March 31 that matches people who are unemployed or underemployed with potential employers. (Visit

Under the Safer at Home order, all large-scale events — including the highly popular Long Beach Pride —have been cancelled. Last year, the Human Rights Campaign ranked Long Beach as one of 88 cities with a 100% rating on their Municipal Equality Index. “Long Beach is, and will always be, a place where everyone, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, can live, work, and love,” Garcia told the Long Beach Post last November.

“I’m feeling the serious public health crisis,” says Garcia when asked how he’s holding up. “Everyone’s working really hard to get this thing under control and make sure that people are following the local jurisdiction and the state’s orders.”

Are any measures being taken to address the vulnerable and sizable LGBTQ population in Long Beach?

“I had some communication with our center as well as some LGBTQ leaders in the community about this,” Garcia says. “I think everyone is working together, making sure that people have the resources they need. I also talked to the leaders of our hospitals. They’re aware that Long Beach has a higher HIV-positive rate than other parts of the state, in large part because of our LGBTQ population and that’s similar in other places in the state that have larger populations. That’s something that we take very seriously.

“We’re trying to get folks resources and my advice to someone who is LGBTQ is the same as it would be to anyone — which is: if you can please stay home and if you need help call a doctor, call your doctor, get ahold of our health department and we’ll try to help,” Garcia says.

Garcia notes that information about the coronavirus is still being developed.

“I think from the research I have done, I understand that generally anyone who has challenges with their immune system — there’s opportunity for a higher infection rate,” Garcia says. “However, it’s important that the science and data on COVID-19 is barely just started and we don’t have a lot of data yet. We will a year from now, but we don’t know how COVID-19 mutates. We don’t know how it’s going to interact with certain types of medications.”

Everyone should behave “with the mentality that they are as susceptible of getting COVID-19 as anyone else. It is not a senior only issue. Anyone can get COVID-19. I think that it’s important that we take care of ourselves and that we stay at home if possible,” Garcia says.

“I think that we ought to be very clear that nobody should be interacting with anyone else outside of their family unit or anyone that they are already living with. Period. End of story. That’s it,” Garcia says firmly, when asked about people still hooking up on Grindr. “Nobody should be interacting with anyone else, whether that is to hang out on a Friday night, whether that is in a way that’s romantic or sexual or any other way.”

The educator emerges. The LGBTQ community, perhaps more than others, “understands the tragic loss of human life that our communities experience, because of AIDS and HIV,” says Garcia. “We have an opportunity to be an example to the rest of the country and the world about taking something seriously, pushing progressive policies to expand healthcare access and then also understand that we shouldn’t be stigmatizing folks that get COVID-19. I think that’s something that we have tried to do in our community as it relates to people that are HIV positive. I think there’s lessons to be learned there. I think that there are folks getting COVID-19 and they shouldn’t be stigmatized, but we need to be responsible and not spread the virus.”

Garcia says he and his spouse Matt Mendez “are both being very careful about interacting with anyone outside of our unit. I’m practicing physical distancing with anyone outside of Matthew and so everyone on my team at the city is doing that. Most folks are working from home. We are all trying to limit where we go and who we interact with and if I have to be in a location that’s outside city hall in my office or at home that’s done where it’s very safe. We also know that anyone can get COVID-19 because it lives on surfaces of some occasions. We just have to all be very careful and watch out for each other.”

Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia’s words of comfort: “Everyone’s going through this. We’re all going through this together. No one is alone. We all have to get through this. For as bad as we may feel and hard … and the anxiety we feel, the pressure we might feel, just know that there are nurses and doctors and health personnel that are feeling much worse and are in a much more dangerous situation than we are in. We should try to do what we can to get through this and make it safer for all of them.”

Long Beach suffered another death. Here’s the information Garcia posted on his Facebook page in advance of his 3:00p briefing:

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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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