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Coronavirus

APLA Health can help when LGBTQ Angelenos get the blues

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COVID-19 is a new virus that is a casually transmitted silent killer. More and more Americans are gradually realizing that life and death may hang in the air tainted by an unmasked asymptomatic coronavirus carrier coughing in public.

Mortality is on everyone’s minds, as is unemployment, debt, eviction, and the prospect of dying alone on a hospital ventilator or forgotten in lonely isolation at home.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s order to continue the statewide closure of non-essential businesses with societal physical distancing until science says it’s OK to re-open has upset LGBTQ business owners and gig workers whose livelihood and identity depend on the entertainment and service industries.

Stress, strain, constant emotional queasiness, loneliness, the sudden surge of repressed abandonment issues – mental health may no longer be someone else’s sad story.

Luckily, both California and even the federal government recognize that mental and physical health are critical to a rebounding nation so telehealth – health advice from the safety of home – is now widely available. APLA Health, for instance, is now 100 percent telehealth for existing clients.

Sean Boileau, director of APLA Health’s Behavioral Health Services, says telehealth actually has some unique advantages when it comes to helping those with mental, emotional or psychological issues.

Boileau started as a communications major before switching to therapy after he found counseling students as a Resident Assistant in the early 1990s to be more rewarding. He received his Doctor of Counseling Psychology degree with a focus on Multiculturalism and Diversity at Arizona State University and completed his post-doctoral fellowship at the University of California/ Berkeley, focusing on LGBT communities. He specializes in, among other issues, internalized homophobia, low self-esteem, and military and combat trauma – experience he gained as a psychologist and clinical supervisor with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Boileau, who is gay, was born in 1974 and was too young to be directly involved with fighting HIV/AIDS.

“I’m in that generation where it didn’t wipe out all of my friends and family because I was eight. But it was also very salient and very real,” he tells the Los Angeles Blade. “So I’m in that generation of fear, which is how I refer to it because I feel that my age group came into their own sexuality and puberty and sexual awakening during a time when any time when gay people were mentioned in the news, it was who’s dying of this horrible disease that we don’t know much about.”

But coming of age in 2020 is a very different experience with more tools and knowledge available. There’s a new therapeutic approach, too, called “cultural humility.”

“One thing about being a psychologist is that you’re going to have some things in common with every patient you work with and there are going to be some stark differences,” Boileau says.  “Cultural humility is not assuming that what is true for you is true for everybody else. [It’s] just this keen awareness of your own perspective of what you bring to the room.  At the end of the day, I happen to be a cis-gender male. I need to be aware of that. That’s not a default value. That’s not a base value. It’s just what I happen to bring to the table.”

A good therapist, he says, “will see opportunities and latch onto them and see where it takes them. I think a trained therapist will not trip over their own feet like a very well-intentioned friend that is at times just tone deaf and actually says something that sets us back. A good therapist avoids those pitfalls and is able to move forward until the person in front of you is comfortable taking a deep breath and saying, ‘OK, here’s what’s actually going on, I think,’” such as inexplicably yelling at a loved one when the underlying issue is really panic over being out of work.

“Millions of horrible things have come about from this virus sweeping the world — all of the impacts that it has had on every single layer of society,” Boileau says. “If there is one tiny silver lining, it is this: the Centers for Medicaid Services and healthcare providers have really loosened up restrictions around how telehealth can be done,” making it easier than ever to connect with someone.

For instance, a shy or too proud person may fear others knowing they are asking for help. That’s no longer a problem.

“So for a person who has issues parking in front of  APLA Health and walking in the front door and passing people in the lobby and being seen by 100 people that know that they’re going to talk to a shrink – what an amazing opportunity to sit in your apartment, click on a link in your email, and a window pops up and you get to have a private conversation in your home that I promise you no one’s going to know about,” he says. “For people who are shy about connecting with Behavioral Health for those reasons, what great way to see if Behavioral Health is right for you.”

There is “110% privacy” to audition a therapist, see what works – and not have to deal with traffic.

“So, of the millions of things that are horrible about the situation we’re currently in,” says Boileau, “one of the few, tiny, little streams of silver is that Behavioral Health is easier to access, less restrictive than ever, more private than ever.”

For more, visit: https://aplahealth.org/

 

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Coronavirus

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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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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