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Coronavirus

Latino/Latinx population comprises disproportionate number of COVID-19 cases

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STOCKTON – As COVID19 numbers sharply increase across California, Governor Gavin Newsom today announced additional targeted actions to support the Central Valley – a region seeing concerning virus spread that is disproportionately impacting Latinos.

During the noon press briefing held at a local distribution center, Newsom noted that the state will deploy three Unified Support Teams to the Central Valley to provide hands-on technical assistance. He added that the Central Valley counties of San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Merced, Madera, Fresno, Kings, Tulare, and Kern would receive a $52 million dollar allocation of funding to help expand disease investigation, contact tracing, and quarantine efforts.

According to data provided by the California Department of Health, statewide, Latinos makeup 38.9 percent of the population but comprise a disproportionate number of COVID-19 cases (56 percent) and deaths (45.7 percent).

In the Central Valley, where between 41-65 percent of any given county is Latino, there are a disproportionate number of Latino deaths compared to population – for example, in Fresno County, Latinos comprise 52.6 percent of the population and 65 percent of COVID-19 deaths.

Health officials across the state including Los Angeles County have reported cases where have no race or ethnicity data was available except that based on surnames, local public health officials estimate that roughly 70 percent appear Latino, thus the current case numbers likely underestimate the total number of Latinos who are impacted by the virus.

The data is clear that COVID-19 is disproportionately impacting Latinos in California,” Newsom told reporters. “The rising community transmission rates we are seeing, particularly among Latinos in the Central Valley, are concerning. This is alarming and we are taking action. That’s why today we are making $52 million available to counties in the Central Valley to support local public health departments with additional resources to stop the spread of the virus and reduce the number of hospitalizations related to COVID-19.”

The state will deploy Unified Support Teams into the eight Central Valley counties to support and boost on-the-ground efforts to reduce transmission rates. The teams will work side by side with local public health, emergency, medical, community, and business organizations to evaluate on-the-ground needs and develop strategies and interventions to address them. These assessments could include evaluation and improvement in testing, contact tracing, disease investigation, data management, public education, and surge planning for local health care systems.

The teams will review data and look at outbreaks in factories and congregate setting such as long-term care facilities, high-density housing developments, and agricultural workplaces where individuals may be exposed to COVID-19.

The mission will be supported by various state agencies and departments.

The state’s targeted efforts are funded in part with a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which has provided California $499 million to support the state’s response to the pandemic, of which $286 million is being made available to local governments in their efforts to fight COVID-19.

In Los Angeles, the County Department of Public Health confirmed 17 new deaths and 2,039 new cases of COVID-19 Monday noting that it anticipates receiving a backlog of cases in the coming days.

The Department has identified 176,028 positive cases of COVID-19 to date across all areas of L.A. County, and a total of 4,375 deaths.

Citing data regarding the 4,083 people who have died, information about race and ethnicity is available in 99 percent of the cases reported.

48% of deaths occurred among Latino/Latinx residents, 25% among White residents, 15% among Asian residents, 11% among African American/Black residents, less than 1% among Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander residents and 1% among residents identifying with other races.

Pointing out the heavy concentration of Latinx individuals, a spokesperson noted that since May, the majority of cases have occurred among people between the ages of 18 and 49 years old.

People between the ages of 30 and 49-year-old account for the largest proportion of cases and roughly the same proportion of cases as seen since May. Other age groups are flat or decreasing slightly.

To the many families who are experiencing the profound grief of losing a loved one to COVID-19, we are so sorry for your loss. We also send our deepest sympathies to Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia who recently lost his mother to this virus,” said Dr. Barbara Ferrer, Director of Public Health in a written statement.

It has been 145 days since the COVID-19 public health emergency was declared in Los Angeles County. These past 145 days have given us time to learn a lot more about COVID-19–how to coexist with it as we await the development of treatments and vaccines, and how to slow the spread to give our health system a fighting chance of treating those who fall seriously ill.

We must drive compliance, containment, and collaboration efforts that will move with us into the long-term recovery that we all want to see happen as soon as possible. There is mounting evidence that these strategies work. The task in front of us is to be able to thread the needle so that we continue with our recovery journey while protecting the health and well-being of our residents, our workforce, and our community. We have to do both.”

Both Newsom and Ferrer re-emphasized the critical need for Californians to wear masks, maintain social distancing, and frequently wash hands to help stop the spread and transmission of the virus.

These simple actions were directly addressed in his daily press conference as Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti on Monday pleaded with Angelenos to observe the requirements of the health orders. While he indicated that he was not going to roll-back the City into a shut-down with a more restrictive stay-at-home order, he asked that residents respect the rules governing facemask and other precautionary rules.

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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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