Today, Senator Brad Hoylman announced new legislation to require New York State to collect and maintain data related to the sexual orientation and gender identity of New Yorkers diagnosed with COVID-19.
Senator Hoylman said: “The coronavirus doesn’t discriminate—but too often, our nation’s broken healthcare system does. We can’t allow the LGBTQ community to become an afterthought in New York’s pandemic response. To truly help LGBTQ New Yorkers during this unprecedented crisis, we’re going to need data to capture the extent of its impact. That’s why I’m proud to sponsor new legislation to ensure New York tracks and measures data on how the COVID-19 crisis is impacting the LGBTQ community.”
Senator Hoylman’s legislation, S.8356, would add a new subdivision to the Public Health Law to require the New York State Department of Health, in coordination with local departments of health, to collect and maintain data related to the sexual orientation and gender identity of individuals diagnosed with COVID-19.
While New York has not yet begun collecting comprehensive public health data on COVID-19’s impact on LGBTQ New Yorkers, the need for LGBTQ-specific interventions is clear. Members of the LGBTQ community are statistically more likely to be in at-risk groups.
According to the Human Rights Campaign:
- 17% of LGBTQ adults do not have any kind of health insurance coverage, compared to 12% of non-LGBTQ adults;
- About 22% of LGBTQ adults live in poverty in the U.S., compared to about 16% of straight and cisgender adults;
- About 40% of LGBTQ workers are employed in industries heavily impacted by COVID-19, compared to 22% of non-LGBTQ workers;
- 37% of LGBTQ adults smoke every day and 21% have asthma, making them more vulnerable to respiratory illnesses such as COVID-19;
- 40% of homeless youth identify as LGBTQ; and
- 29% of transgender adults live in poverty, 29% of transgender women have avoided going to the doctor due to cost, and 22% of transgender adults have no form of health coverage.
Despite these risk factors, New York does not currently have sufficient data to identify specific challenges faced by the LGBTQ community or a public health response tailored to their needs. This lack of data prevents policy-makers from responding effectively to the unique needs of a community which is often subject to discrimination and insufficient cultural sensitivity.
Already, we’ve seen how data collection has been crucial in changing the course of New York’s pandemic response. Data identifying COVID-19’s massive and disproportionate impact on communities of color was crucial in informing the State’s response to the crisis. Senator Hoylman’s legislation will provide policymakers with access to similar data for the LGBTQ community, allowing them to begin the process of identifying solutions to help LGBTQ New Yorkers.