COVID-19 Has Devastating "Disparate Impact" on LGBTQ People of Color

Queer people of color were twice as likely to get COVID-19 than non-LGBTQ white people, says the Williams Institute.

Queer people of color in the United States were twice as likely to get COVID-19 during the height of the pandemic last fall than non-LGBTQ white Americans, according to a new report from the Williams Institute.

Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles’s LGBTQ think tank analyzed data collected by Axios-Ipsos between August 2020 and December 2020. And the findings are eye-opening: Of the 12,000 U.S. adults surveyed, about 15% of LGBTQ respondents of color reported contracting the virus versus just 7% of non-LGBTQ white participants. Researchers found that LGBTQ people of color were “more likely to follow public-health measures” — including getting tested for COVID-19, social distancing, and wearing masks — than non-LGBTQ white people, although no explanation was provided as to if these best-practice behaviors had any influence on the higher rate of positive COVID-19 cases among this demographic. Queer people of color were also more likely to trust public-health officials and state governments to handle the pandemic over pharmaceutical companies or the former presidential administration.

“Our main finding is that the impact of the pandemic on LGBT communities cannot be fully understood without considering race and ethnicity as well as sexual orientation and gender identity,” the report reads in part.

It isn’t the first study to indicate the virus’s “disparate impact” on queer people — or on communities of color. Last August, research from the Human Rights Campaign and PSB Insights found that Black LGBTQ Americans were more likely to report pandemic-related income loss or reduced work hours than non-Black or non-LGBTQ people. Earlier this month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also called for more data collection on gender identity and sexual orientation to better understand COVID-19’s effect on LGBTQ Americans.

As the pandemic wages on, Black Americans of all gender identities and sexual orientations continue to experience higher COVID-19-related mortality rates and lower vaccination rates than their non-Black counterparts. This is ostensibly due to a lack of information about the virus and access to the COVID-19 vaccine among Black communities, gaps that advocates say need to be closed. As USA Today reported last week, the life expectancy for Black adults in the U.S. has fallen to 72 years, its lowest level since 2001.

“With a change to the [Biden-Harris] administration,” the report adds, “restoring trust in institutions that are critical to successfully vaccinating LGBT communities, and in particular LGBT communities of color, will be critical.”

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