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Thank you, COVID-19 nurses!



This could be how humanity ends: a stealth, highly contagious, mutating airborne virus wafts quickly across the land, wreaking havoc on the health, financial and social well-being of all in its path. The new plague is deliberately ignored by an incompetent leader with magical thinking who denounces the hastily erected policy firewall constructed out of science by local leaders and healthcare experts and fortified by the good grace of strangers.

The connective tissue holding the body of humanity together against the novel coronavirus and the accidental and intentional ignorance feeding it are the first responders, the nurses and doctors, the healthcare assistants, and the frontline workers ensuring the spaces people inhabit are safe.

It may be the nurses working long hours in hospitals, nursing homes, and jails who are among the most brave, battling the regular silent banality of death itself as their patients grasp for a last connection to life against the cacophony of beeping monitors. With each hand they hold, nurses face their own mortality and defend humanity against abject darkness.

Tragically, this was a preventable genocide. President Trump had been warned about the outbreak in January but dismissed the intelligence reports.

On March 3, Angelinos lined up to vote, undisturbed by reports of a new flu-like virus up north but focusing on Joe Biden’s expected blowout of the Super Tuesday election. On March 4, California Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a public health emergency after a 71-year old person died, calling for rigorous hand washing, social distancing and self-quarantining if feeling ill.

By May 6, two months later, there were 1.25 million confirmed U.S. cases, 73,931 deaths; 59,698 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in California, with 2,439 deaths; 28,644 of those positive COVID-19 cases were in Los Angeles County, with 1,367 deaths – 58 new deaths from the day before.

Barbara Ferrer, PhD, MPH, MEd, Director of LA County Department of Public Health during May 5, 2020 news conference

All of these numbers are human beings. This is believed to be an undercount.

More and more, the public has become aware of the quiet courage it takes for nurses and others to venture into the dangerous unknown to fight to keep the virus from spreading.

GLMA, an organization of health professionals advancing LGBTQ equality, just launched a storytelling campaign “to spotlight the stories of LGBTQ healthcare workers on the frontlines who are sacrificing for their patients and communities during the pandemic,” GLMA executive director Hector Vargas tells the Los Angeles Blade. “The goal is to share their heroic stories in and of themselves but also as a means to educate about the need for nondiscrimination laws to protect LGBTQ healthcare providers and the entire community.”

“We know that this is a hard time for everyone, but especially healthcare workers and healthcare workers who belong to the LGBTQ+ community,” GLMA notes on their website. “With nearly half of LGBTQ+ healthcare workers living and working in states where it’s legal to be fired based on sexual orientation or gender identity, GLMA understands why it’s more important than ever to make sure we’re all safe from discrimination on the job.”

GLMA and the Williams Institute determined that 826,000 LGBT people work in the healthcare industry. The percentage of LGBT healthcare workers in states without nondiscrimination protections is 47% (or an estimated 386,000 people).

The Los Angeles Blade interviewed three gay LA-based nurses to share their experiences during this trying time.

Jay-Ar Langcay (Photo courtesy Langcay)

Jay-Ar Langcay, 36, has been a nurse for about 11 years. Since moving to LA from Hawaii in 2010, he has been working as an Emergency Nurse at LA County USC Medical Center, a Level 1 trauma hospital. He also works with the Sheriff’s Department taking care of clinically sick patients from LA County Jail.

Langcay, a COVID-19 survivor, also faced death as a child growing up in the Philippines where he contracted Dengue Fever Stage IV. He contracted COVID-19 at the beginning of March.

“I was not expecting it. I tried my best protecting myself,” he tells the Los Angeles Blade. “The first week was fine — sore throat, fever, headache, body-aches, and loss of sense of taste. The second week added cough, diarrhea and fatigue. The third week, I developed shortness of breath and blood in my sputum. I could hear my lungs gurgling and I couldn’t sleep on my back or sideways. I managed to sleep sitting up and sometimes in a prone position. I was really scared when my color became bright red.

“I got the result of my test on the second week and really got scared, depressed and cried every night while Facetiming my family in Hawaii,” he continues. “I was scared to die alone in my apartment. I always thought, ‘what if I don’t wake up in the morning,’ so I kept my phone beside me all the time. My family’s prayers comforted me all thorough out and my faith got stronger day by day.

“I’ve seen my previous patients who contracted COVID distraught and emotional, on top of all the symptoms they were having and I told them about my story,” Langcay says. “I feel their emotions and uncertainties as I’ve felt before and I know it gives them a little hope and faith that they can survive, as well.”

As of May 6, 168,000 people have survived COVID-19.

Langcay says he experienced different stages, facing his own mortality.

“I felt anxious and depressed experiencing COVID but knowing I’m a healthy person was my key to keeping my hopes high in surviving it,” he says. “But still, seeing and reading the news about the numbers of people who succumbed to the disease made me accept my destiny. Now I say, ‘If it’s my time, it’s my time.’ It’s inevitable.

“I thought of all the good things I’ve done to others — I thought of the bad ones, as well,” he says. “And I thought of ‘what if I only given a second life and this is it.’ But I also thought of my family and friends and they are not ready to let me go.”

Finally, Langcay says, confronting his own mortality “made me think of what my real purpose in life is and if I already served my purpose here on earth. Recognizing and accepting my impending mortality in a way gave me the strength and faith to overcome COVID-19.”

Harold Sarmiento (Photo courtesy Sarmiento)

Harold Sarmiento is an infectious disease nurse practitioner at Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles Medical Center. He is also an assistant clinical professor and preceptor for advanced practice nursing students at California State University and UCLA School of Nursing where in 2016 he earned an MSN and is now a doctoral student. Sarmiento was an adult-gerontology primary care/HIV nurse practitioner at AIDS Healthcare Foundation in Beverly Hills and before that, worked as a critical care RN at Keck Medicine of USC and USC Medical Center.

“When I was growing up, my mother, who is a retired midwife, used to take me with her to work at the community health center. Sometimes, in the middle of the night, I’d accompany her while she helped pregnant women deliver their babies at their own homes,” Sarmiento tells the LA Blade. “I also had a younger brother who suffered from cerebral palsy. I was helping my family care for him at home when I was not in school – at night and during the weekends. Unfortunately, he passed away at the age of 5. These experiences fueled me to get into this field.”

Sarmiento is particularly sensitive to being a gay nurse. “Being a first-generation immigrant and a member of the LGBTQ community myself, I can relate to my patients’ struggles – lack of compassionate, culturally sensitive care from their healthcare providers, stigma and discrimination from the society, lack of access to healthcare insurance, cultural and language barriers, lack of education, poverty, homelessness, mental issues, substance abuse, etc,” he says. “Seeing and caring for the LGBTQ population opened-up my eyes to the disparities in our health care system. It breaks my heart to see how the LGBTQ community is disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS, even these days. I am here, trying to make an impact on the lives of my own community.”

He has seen how COVID-19 has caused a “spike in fear and stigma” that feels familiar to people living with HIV/AIDS.

“Although we don’t have enough information if people with HIV have higher risk of contracting COVID-19, we know that patients with HIV who are immunocompromised (those with low CD4 cell count), patients who are not on antiretroviral medications and older patients with other underlying medical conditions, have higher risk of getting very sick with COVID-19,” Sarmiento says.

“It has been very challenging lately. My patients are scared to go to the clinic for their follow up, to get their lab works done or even to pick up their medications at the pharmacy,” he says. “I totally understand — they don’t want to contract coronavirus and we want to protect them from potential harm, as well. So, for almost two months now, we’ve been using telemedicine in our clinic. We also provide them an extra supply of their medications, as well, free delivery.”

Sarmiento is in charge of the Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) program and has noticed some patients are taking a break.

“Their fear of contracting COVID-19 has lessened their sexual activity,” he says. “Fewer people are hooking up because of the ‘Stay at Home’ orders. People are quarantined and staying at home with their partners, thus they have more time to be intimate and have sex.”

However, “despite social distancing, there are still people who are contracting HIV and STDs. And unfortunately, a rising number of my patients have lost their jobs due to the crisis. They have also lost their health insurance, adding even more stress,” he says.

“As COVID-19 spreads, it exposed not only the challenges in our healthcare system but also the inequity especially among us – the underserved, marginalized members of our community,” Sarmiento says. “As an LGBTQ+ community, let us not be further stigmatized by COVID-19. Please help raise awareness without increasing fear by sharing accurate evidence-based information. Let science guide us. Please practice social distancing, wear a mask and wash your hands often. Spread love, kindness and help each other during this very difficult time.”

Santiago Mandi (Photo courtesy Mandi)

Nursing runs in Santiago Mandi’s family. “I knew that my mother found joy in her occupation so when I was young, I believed that nursing was a great career. It wasn’t until I began to volunteer at the hospital in Seattle, Washington that I knew it was what I wanted to do,” Mandi, 38, tells the LA Blade. He graduated from nursing school in 2004 and has worked at hospitals in St. Louis, New York City, Boston, and now Los Angeles, where he’s lived for seven years.

“I am employed at UCLA Ronald Reagan Medical Center in the Coronary Care Unit, Cardiac Intensive Care,” he says. “The pandemic has quickly changed the processes the hospital has implemented when admitting patients into the hospital and how procedures are done. The staff is regularly updated on policy changes when it comes to caring for patients with COVID-19 and how healthcare workers protect themselves.”

“When patients come into the Emergency Room, they are automatically tested for COVID-19,” he continues. “It’s been taking only a few hours for the results to come back. All patients going for surgery are retested for COVID-19. If there is a suspicion a patient has contracted COVID-19, staff members have clear protocols on what steps need to be taken.”

Mandi says there have been many changes since March on how to handle patients with COVID-19, “but that’s expected since the CDC’s guidelines to properly take care of these patients has been evolving.Thankfully UCLA has been quick to adapt to the latest guidelines recommended by the CDC.”

“Currently we have enough supplies to protect ourselves,” he says. “Supplies have definitely become limited and rationed strategically, but if I need a mask or a gown to wear over my scrubs when I enter a room of a patient who is being tested for COVID-19, the hospital provides me with what is needed. Every day I enter the hospital, my temperature is checked and I am given a basic surgical mask since the hospital has employees wearing masks throughout the hospital. If, for some reason, my mask needs changing, I know I can get a replacement without difficulties.”

However, Mandi says, “I do hear of other hospitals that do not have this luxury and it’s frightening. I can’t imagine taking care of a patient with COVID-19 and not having the necessary supplies that is needed to protect yourself. I know that I am lucky to be working at UCLA, which has more resources than many healthcare facilities in the neighborhood. UCLA Medical Center has been preparing for the surge that thankfully has not yet happened due to the hard work of everyone in the city.”

Mandi echoes signs held by healthcare workers begging community members to try to stop the novel coronavirus pandemic by please following guidelines for everyone’s safety, especially as cities in LA County start to slowly re-open.

“I hope the LGBTQ community can continue social distancing and regular hand washing as we move forward and lift the city’s restrictions,” Mandi says. “As the weather gets warmer, the community will be out and about enjoying sunshine and take part in more gatherings. But we need to continue to be mindful that COVID-19 is still around and can still transmitted to one another.”

Testing for COVID-19 is increasingly becoming available, so if you think you have symptoms or want to be tested for peace of mind, visit

In recognition of National Nurses Day on May 6, California State Sen. Scott Wiener, chair of the LGBT Legislative Caucus, and others issued statements of gratitude.

“Thank you to our amazing healthcare workers, who are on the front lines of our fight against COVID-19. We are so incredibly grateful for your efforts and sacrifice, and you are a key reason we are getting through this pandemic,” Wiener said in a statement to the LA Blade. “Thank you for taking such good care of those in the LGBTQ community who may have some reservations about entering the healthcare system. We appreciate you and will never forget the sacrifices you’ve made.”

“Nurses, along with other health workers, are on the front line, battling the deadly virus each day.  We thank for them for their heroic efforts and for continuing to care for people living with HIV,” says the Los Angeles County Commission on HIV.

“APLA Health was founded to fight a deadly virus and today we see ourselves out in front combatting another,” said Craig E. Thompson, CEO of APLA Health. “The dedicated staff at all of our health centers have stepped up to the challenges that COVID-19 has presented us and I am immensely proud of all the hard work they have put in during the last few months. They have put in long hours, adopted new technologies and continually been there to provide the essential services our community relies on to stay healthy and well. Our frontline staff have and will always be integral in the care of our community.”

Nurses and all other front line workers at the [Los Angeles LGBT] Center and similar organizations have been providing critical and life-saving services for decades as we have navigated the HIV/AIDS pandemic and now Covid-19. Throughout, they have been courageous and compassionate, even in the face of personal danger and tremendous loss. The world is now seeing the true value of all those who come to work every day, from medical professionals to grocery store clerks, to help us all get through this new reality.  They are all to be commended, valued, and made visible on this National Nurses Day,” says Darrel Cummings, Chief of Staff, Los Angeles LGBT Center.  

“In ordinary times, the nearly four-hundred nurses and related nursing staff working for AHF in our healthcare centers both here and around the world as well as those nurses working as case managers for us serve as a linchpin and lifeline in the delivery of lifesaving care for our patients. Each deserves our profound recognition and thanks—not only on National Nurses Day—but every day that they step forward to fulfill their duties,” said AIDS Healthcare Foundation President Michael Weinstein. “And today, even more so, during these times of heightened anxiety and both profound and routine medical need amid the coronavirus pandemic. On behalf of all of AHF, I could not be more proud to see how these professionals have risen to the challenge or more thankful for the dedication these exceptional care providers continue to demonstrate in measures large and small each day.”

Our siblings who are part of our LGBTQ community and who are not often recognized, The [email protected] Coalition wants to acknowledge your existence and dedication to support all people in need. We also want to specially appreciate all of those health care workers who we partner with and those who are warriors on behalf of Trans, Gender Non-Conforming and Intersex (TGI) people. Thank you for helping us live and survive through this horrible global pandemic and always. Much love and appreciation,” Bamby Salcedo, President/CEO, The [email protected] Coalition.  

“Team APAIT sends big virtual hugs and thumbs up to all first responders and essential workers for keeping our communities safe,” says Jury Candelario, MSW, APAIT.

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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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