WASHINGTON— Representative Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.-03) along with U.S. Senators Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), led a bicameral group of almost 100 colleagues in urging U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar to fulfill HHS’ commitment to its Healthy People 2020 objectives by collecting data on sexual orientation and gender identity during the coronavirus disease of 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.
The COVID-19 pandemic is more likely to impact members of the LGBTQ community than the general population. According to a recent report, members of the LGBTQ community are more likely to “lack access to adequate medical care, paid medical leave, and basic necessities during the pandemic.”
“The current lack of demographic data that includes sexual orientation and gender identity will make it difficult for health care providers and policymakers to clearly identify and address the prevention and treatment needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) communities and will exacerbate the challenges that these populations are already experiencing during the COVID-19 public health emergency,” wrote the bicameral group of lawmakers to Secretary Azar. “We strongly urge you to include information on sexual orientation and gender identity as part of any COVID-19 data collection efforts.”
Currently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) COVID-19 Case Report Form does not include questions about whether a patient identifies as LGBTQ. It is unclear if supplemental surveillance activities such as COVID-NET include these questions or if any upcoming surveys will include these questions. This not only contradicts the HHS Healthy People 2020 objectives to improve the collection of health data on LGBTQ populations, it also ignores the objectives of Section 4302 of the Affordable Care Act’s provisions to strengthen federal data collection efforts.
Congress and governmental agencies rely on data to create better health programs, direct vital resources to communities, and better the health of all people residing in the United States. “The fact remains that we know little about the social and economic circumstances of the LGBTQ population at large. For these reasons, we believe that it is critical for the federal government to work with states and localities to provide disaggregated data on sexual orientation, gender identity, and other demographic characteristics when reporting COVID-19 tests, cases, and fatalities to the CDC,” the lawmakers concluded before urging Secretary Azar to create and implement the tools to collect this critical data.
The lawmakers also asked a series of questions about how HHS will document and report on the impact of COVID-19 on LGBTQ communities,; and requested an explanation of the agency’s outreach to LGBTQ communities and organizations about the COVID-19 pandemic to date.
Organizations supporting this letter include the Center for American Progress, Family Equality, Lambda Legal, and the National LGBT Cancer Network.
Joining Sens. Menendez and Baldwin in sending this letter were Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Robert P. Casey, Jr. (D-Penn.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Cory A. Booker (D-N.J.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.).
Joining Rep. Grijalva in the House Representatives were Reps. Colin Z. Allred (D-Tex.-32), Alma S. Adams, Ph.D (D-N.C.-12), Karen Bass (D-Calif.-37), Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.-03), Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Del.), Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.-01), Julia Brownley (D-Calif.-26), Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.-29), Ed Case (D-Hawaii-01), Judy Chu (D-Calif.-27), David N. Cicilline (D-R.I.-01), Gilbert R. Cisneros, Jr. (D-Calif.-39), Yvette D. Clarke (D-N.Y.-09), J. Luis Correa (D-Calif.-46), TJ Cox (D-Calif.-21), Jason Crow (D-Colo.-06), Susan A. Davis (D-Calif.-53), Danny K. Davis (D-Ill.-07), Madeleine Dean (D-Pa.-04), Peter A. DeFazio (D-Ore.-04), Eliot L. Engel (D-N.Y.-16), Veronica Escobar (D-Tex.-16), Adriano Espaillat (D-N.Y.-13), Bill Foster (D-Ill.-11), Jesús G. “Chuy” García (D-Ill.-04), Sylvia R. Garcia (D-Tex.-29), Jimmy Gomez (D-Calif.-34), Deb Haaland (D-N.M.-01), Alcee L. Hastings (D-Fla.-20), Jahana Hayes (D-Conn.-05), Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.-07), Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Tex.-30), Henry C. “Hank” Johnson, Jr (D-Ga.-04), Joseph P. Kennedy, III (D-Mass.-04), Ro Khanna (D-Calif.-17), John B. Larson (D-Conn.-01), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.-13), Ted W. Lieu (D-Calif.-33), Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.-19), Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.-47), Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.-12), Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.-18), Lucy McBath (D-Ga.-06), A. Donald McEachin (D-Va.-04), James P. McGovern (D-Mass.-02), Gregory W. Meeks (D-N.Y.-05), Grace Meng (D-N.Y.-06), Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D-Fla.-26), Eleanor H. Norton (D-D.C.), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.-14), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.-05), Jimmy Panetta (D-Calif.-20), Chris Pappas (D-N.H.-01), Chellie Pingree (D-Maine-01), Mark Pocan (D-Wis.-02), Katie Porter (D-Calif.-45), Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.-07), Mike Quigley (D-Ill.-05), Jamie Raskin (D-Md.-08), Kathleen M. Rice (D-N.Y.-04), Harley Rouda (D-Calif.-48), Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.-40), Linda T. Sánchez (D-Calif.-38), José E. Serrano (D-N.Y.-15), Donna E. Shalala (D-Fla.-27), Albio Sires (D-N.J.-08), Adam Smith (D-Wash.-09), Darren Soto (D-Fla.-09), Jackie Speier (D.-Calif.-14), Tom Suozzi (D-N.Y.-03), Mark Takano (D-Calif.-41), Dina Titus (D-Nev.-01), Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.-13), Lori Trahan (D-Mass.-03), David Trone (D-Md.-06), Lauren Underwood (D-Ill.-14), Juan Vargas (D-Calif.-51), Nydia M. Velázquez (D-N.Y.-07), Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.-12), and Jennifer Wexton (D-Va.-10).
The full text of the letter can be found here.