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Publish, not perish: LGBTQ media confront COVID-19

‘At the end of this, we will be stronger than ever’

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quarantine, LGBT press, LGBTQ media, gay news, Washington Blade

The March 20 front page of the Los Angeles Blade. (Image courtesy of the Blade)

The LGBTQ media are reeling from the economic fallout of the COVID-19 crisis, as venues remain shuttered and public gatherings are cancelled or postponed in markets across the country.

But those at the helm of several publications say they’re determined to keep delivering the news, information, and insight their loyal readership relies on, by shoring up steadfast relationships and cultivating new clients.

“Almost immediately, we got calls to cancel advertising” at the onset of COVID-19, recalls Jan Stevenson, co-publisher and CFO of Pride Source Media Group, whose biweekly LGBTQ print publication, Between The Lines, is normally available for free pickup at over 600 locations throughout the greater Michigan area (see pridesource.com for more info).

The closure of most of their distribution sites, notes Stevenson, led to the decision to publish “only a PDF version of the paper, and to include all the booked ads, except for events that were cancelled, at no charge.”

Pride Source, which Stevenson owns alongside her wife, Susan Horowitz, sent a message to advertisers “acknowledging that with everything they are facing, the last thing they need to worry about is their ads with us—so we froze, in place, all contracts, to be revisited when things open up. The response has been overwhelmingly positive, and thankful.”

Between the Lines re-established itself as a print publication when the hard copy edition resumed on April 30. Still, says Stevenson, “Michigan’s largest Pride celebrations have all been either rescheduled or cancelled. It will result in a huge loss of revenue for our publications. We are conserving our resources now, applying for whatever assistance we can, and hoping to weather the rest of 2020.”

Pride month and its perennial attendant revenue “is everything for every gay publication,” says Troy Masters, publisher of the Los Angeles Blade (losangelesblade.com), a weekly print publication that, like Between the Lines, is part of the 12-member National LGBT Media Association (nationallgbtmediaassociation.com). “It represents a disproportionate percentage [of annual sales income],” notes Masters.

Says Masters of the postponed LA Pride Festival and Parade and other events: “Events are critical in this market and very popular with potential sponsors, but that is presently impossible… Asking people to spend money on marketing is very hard, although we have had success talking to our regular clients about collections. We’ve actually gained a few small ones. A hardware store comes to mind, but we remain down in advertising numbers and revenue.”

On March 6, anticipating the looming crisis, the paper revised its distribution to focus “on every residence and apartment building on key blocks of West Hollywood, as well as grocery stores we can access,” says Masters, who notes the Blade continues to be available via street boxes, albeit only within the West Hollywood area.

Norm Kent, founder/publisher of the South Florida Gay News (southfloridagaynews.com), is similarly determined to forge ahead.

“I will just give you the grim outline,” says Kent. “We are facing a disease that is threatening our lives, as well as our livelihoods—and I am more concerned about our community surviving and my friends living than I am my newspaper printing. You can start a paper up again, not a life. So what material losses I endure are inconsequential compared to the friends I may lose.”

The advertising revenue lost from the postponement of April’s Pride of the Americas festival in Fort Lauderdale and March’s Miami Beach Pride and Palm Beach Pride, notes Kent, represents “the balance of our year. So we’re going to have to find a way to engage this adversity, with a smaller paper that is laser-focused, understanding that bigger is not always better, and sometimes, less is more.”

Last March 24, recalls Kent, “I published one of the largest weekly gay papers in history, at 124 pages. One year later, the paper was 28 pages. But the real losses are being endured by the social service programs that were the intended beneficiaries of those events.”

Notes Kent, who left his position as executive director of AIDS Project Florida to found his publication, “I’ve always cared more about people than profits, and that’s why I’m going to use all my resources to tread water in the tides of a rising ocean—and I’m pretty confident, because I’m a good swimmer.”

Some silver linings remain, notes Masters, of the Los Angeles Blade. Advertisers including the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, AIDS Project Los Angeles, and the City of West Hollywood, who’ve been a consistent presence throughout since the paper’s 2017 inception, have increased their visibility throughout the COVID-19 crisis, both in print and online.

Stevenson says that online traffic is up significantly, noting, “People obviously want to stay connected, and are concerned about how the pandemic is impacting LGBTQ people and organizations. The other non-pandemic news about LGBTQ issues—like the passage of anti-trans legislation—is getting a lot of traction.”

Furthermore, says Stevenson, local health departments wanting to communicate messages about HIV testing and COVID-19 services have come on board, along with several others who’ve requested banner ads and other online outreach.

That presence sends more than just a message about products and services.

“Our community is especially receptive to seeing that people are supportive,” maintains Masters. “That’s always true, but in a pandemic that echoes the trauma of the AIDS crisis, it’s especially true. We want to know that our gains are important and that we are included.”

“There are some real heroes out there in LGBTQ media, like Comcast and [HIV/AIDS treatment provider] Gilead, who are continuing their campaigns in LGBTQ media,” says Todd Evans, president and CEO of Rivendell Media (rivendellmedia.com), which places advertisements for the National LGBT Media Association. Together, the association’s members — including Boston’s Bay Windows and the Dallas Voice— reach an estimated 500,000 weekly print and online readers.

“In a time when the news is dominated by a crisis,” notes Evans, “LGBTQ consumers want to know who is supporting us, and who is not.

One big difference with this crisis versus 9/11, Hurricane Sandy, and the financial crisis of 2008/2009, says Evans, is, “We’ve had virtually no cancelling of ads. I’ve had a few campaigns that were just ready to start now, so they’re delaying, which makes sense. So I think that shows that advertisers are waiting for information—how long we stay at home, how long distribution points are closed.”

That said, says Evans, “The community still needs its news. We still want to know who supports us, and who doesn’t. I know myself, as a super-consumer of news media, when it comes to the LGBTQ community, I only find out, especially the political stuff, via our own media… I truly feel, at the end of this, that we will be stronger than ever as a community, because we’re used to fighting—and we’re also used to being under attack.”

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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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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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