On Thursday, a bill that would require the California Department of Public Health to include sexual orientation and gender identity data from those who have been diagnosed with the COVID-19 coronavirus was passed in the Senate unanimously 40-0.
SB 932 and additional coronavirus data
Senate Bill 932, authored by Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), would also have health care providers that know of cases to provide the orientation and gender identity to health officers.
The goal of the bill is to have demographic data on the LGBT community who have contracted coronavirus to find disparities among those diagnosed with coronavirus and to help further pinpoint places and areas where transmission rates spike to help lesson the overall spread in California.
“Through demographic data we have already found how minorities contract the virus at greater rates, we’ve helped pinpoint certain outbreak locations, and we’ve found little bumps in data that help target who the most susceptible people are,” noted disease researcher Lindsay Cantrell. “If sexual orientation was added, it would add another layer of info. During the AIDS crisis in the 80’s it helped pinpoint it to certain communities, but there was also much discrimination.”
“This time around there isn’t anything like that. But if there are higher rates, or if there is a certain bump in a certain area many had gone to, we can help prevent coronavirus further. We’d otherwise miss outbreaks and miss entire communities who had this.”
“It’s just an additional question or two to ask, but it can mean the whole world to those figuring out how to prevent this from spreading.”
A need for LGBT data collection
Senator Wiener and other supporters have noted much of the same argument, pointing out that the missed opportunity to collect the data may have caused some outbreaks to slip through the cracks.
“SB 932 is essential in helping us understand how the LGBTQ community is being impacted by COVID-19,” said Senator Wiener in a statement on Thursday. “LGBTQ people have heightened risk factors for this virus, yet we don’t collect this health data and have missed the opportunity for months. The history of LGBTQ people is a history of attempted erasure, in our health care system and in society. This erasure must stop, and collecting data is essential to end it.”
Many organizations have also noted that the additional data will have the capacity to prevent more outbreaks.
“If LGBTQ+ people continue to be left out of COVID-19 data, then outbreaks within the community can’t be detected and government and public health officials can’t take action to prevent COVID-19-related deaths,” noted Equality California in a press release. “In addition to urging the California Legislature to pass SB 932, Equality California and other LGBTQ+ advocates have asked state and local elected officials and public health leaders to take immediate administrative action to begin collecting sexual orientation and gender identity data.”
No substantial opposition has come out against SB 932, with every Committee vote also voting unanimously for the bill, even after bill changes.
“It’s a bill that doesn’t cost anything and can save lives,” stated ‘Dana’, who works at the Capitol Building in Sacramento. “There’s no real argument against it.”
SB 932 will now head to the Assembly, where it is widely expected to be passed. Governor Gavin Newsom has also indicated that he would sign such legislation into law.