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Coronavirus

Newsom talks LGBT needs, statewide testing lapses

LA County Department of Public Health reports highest death toll yet

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SACRAMENTO, CA.  In his daily press conference Saturday, Gov. Gavin Newsom told reporters that he accepted responsibility for the lack of statewide testing so far and he announced new initiatives to increase the number of those tested by making more COVID-19 tests available. This will include partnerships with UC Davis and UC San Diego in an effort to establish regional hubs. According to Newsom, 126,700 people have been tested so far and there were an additional 13,000 tests that were awaiting results.

“The testing space has been challenging for us, and I own that,” Newsom said during the news conference. “I have a responsibility as your governor to do more and to better.”

The governor also noted that Abbott Laboratories and healthcare providers statewide are working to increase point-of-care tests, which can take 15 minutes or less to produce a result. This included 75 sites among the state’s 13 major hospital systems including Sutter Health and Kaiser Permanente, he said.

Newsom also announced the launch of a new state website to facilitate getting critical medical supplies to the front lines of the fight against COVID-19. The new website (covid19supplies.ca.gov) will allow individuals and companies to donate, sell or offer to manufacture 13 of the most essential medical supplies, including ventilators, N95 respirators, and testing materials.

Asked if the state’s response met the specific health and economic needs of LGBTQ Californians, especially those living with HIV and LGBTQI+ residents solely dependent on the gig economy, the governor noted that it was a “Point of Pride” for him to proactively address those needs. Especially as a former Mayor of San Francisco he said. San Francisco has one of the largest LGBTQI+ centric populations in the state.

“Yeah, from across the spectrum from addressing homeless youth- particularly in LA County; so the answer is ‘yes.’ From an LGBTQ perspective but also from a geographical perspective. And from an age perspective as it relates to finding more federal resources for housing opportunities for LGBTQ youth and adults. Look, I come from San Francisco, 5th generation, it’s a point of deep pride when we talk in terms of cultural competency- neighborhood by neighborhood,” Newsom said.

“The history of the HIV epidemic searing the consciousness of our health care delivery focus- again a bottom-up focus, and yeah, of course that extended to Dr. Fauci* (link) who is very familiar to the folks in San Francisco and within the LGBTQ community as being one of our heroes decades ago, in terms of how he met that moment and he spoke truth in that moment. So, the answer is absolutely ‘yes’- point of pride for me as a former mayor of San Francisco, who’s deeply attached to the needs and desires and aspirations and the health of our LGBTQ community,” he added.

“We are always grateful for Governor Newsom’s leadership, but perhaps never more than during this public health crisis. Governor Newsom has been a lifelong pro-equality champion and we know he and his team are prioritizing our LGBTQ+ community — and the diverse communities to which we belong — and will identify and implement specific solutions to meet the unique challenges we face,” Rick Zbur, the executive director of Equality California wrote in an email to the Los Angeles Blade reacting to Newsom’s answer. “We look forward to working closely with the governor in the coming weeks and months to provide health and healing for LGBTQ+ and all Californians,” he added.

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (LACDPH) announced 28 new deaths related to the coronavirus Saturday, which was the largest single-day rise in fatalities yet as officials said again that they are preparing for several tough weeks.

To date, LACDPH has identified 5277 cases across all areas of LA County, including 117 deaths. As of today, 1168 people who tested positive for COVID-19 (22% of positive cases) have been hospitalized at some point during their illness. Testing capacity continues to increase in LA county, with almost 29,000 individuals tested and 14% of people testing positive.

“This is the most dramatic increase in deaths we have seen since the COVID-19 crisis began, and our condolences go out to each and every person impacted by these heartbreaking losses,” said Dr. Barbara Ferrer, Director of LACDPH said in an emailed statement. “Though COVID-19 can infect people of all ages, most of the deaths we see continue to be among individuals over the age of 65 with underlying health conditions. Now, more than ever, we must unify as a community to protect this vulnerable population by making sure they are able to stay home and take every precaution.”

“This is the time for neighbors, friends, and families to make sure that those at highest risk for serious illness from COVID-19 are able to easily and safely remain in their homes with all their needs met. So, call and check in on our elderly community members, and when possible, safely drop off any supplies they may need, from a safe social distance. These are tough times, but we are a caring LA County, and we will get through this together,” She added.

Californian’s are reminded that the best defense against the viral outbreak is to stay home and when out and about to practice physical distancing of at least 6 feet Newsom reiterated in his Saturday press conference.

For up-to-date information please visit:

The California Department of Public Health

Los Angeles County Department of Public Health

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Note: Dr. Fauci was appointed Director of The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) in 1984. He oversees an extensive research portfolio of basic and applied research to prevent, diagnose, and treat established infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS, respiratory infections, diarrheal diseases, tuberculosis and malaria as well as emerging diseases such as Ebola and Zika. NIAID also supports research on transplantation and immune-related illnesses, including autoimmune disorders, asthma and allergies.

Dr. Fauci has advised six Presidents on HIV/AIDS and many other domestic and global health issues.

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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

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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

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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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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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