Dear Rainbow Community Members & Supporters,
In order to best manage through this time of increased precautionary measures around the COVID-19 coronavirus, Rainbow Community Center is sharing the below information. We are definitely in a place of caution and not crisis.
Rainbow is effectively postponing, suspending, and rescheduling all in person, events, programming and meetings starting today, March 9 through, Sunday, March 22 specifically:
- All in person programming, events, and meetings in spaces of more than 5 people to a later date
- Clinicians, Staff and Volunteers will adjust to hold essential meetings and sessions via phone or video conferencing
- Not offering HIV testing on site or off site and will offer referrals to alternate test locations
- Not offering the Kind Hearts Food Pantry Program on Thursday, March 12 or Thursday, March 19 and are investigating possible alternatives for our community members
- Asking kindly any individual who arrives to the Center to leave if exhibiting any fever, flu, or cold like symptoms
Thank you for your understanding and support, as it is always a disappointment to have to suspend services when we know our community is in need.
As the spread of the virus increases, many LGBTQI+ people are understandably concerned about how this virus may affect us and our communities. The virus surveillance, response, treatment, and media coverage that LGBTQI+ communities are among those who are particularly vulnerable to the negative health effects of this virus.
Our increased vulnerability is a direct result of three factors:
1. The LGBTQI+ population uses tobacco at rates that are 50% higher than the general population (Buchting et al. 2017; Creamer et al. 2019). COVID-19 is a respiratory illness that has proven particularly harmful to smokers.
2. The LGBTQI+ population has higher rates of HIV and cancer, which means a greater number of us may have compromised immune systems, leaving us more vulnerable to COVID-19 infections.
3. LGBTQI+ people continue to experience discrimination, unwelcoming attitudes, and lack of understanding from providers and staff in many health care settings, and as a result, many are reluctant to seek medical care except in situations that feel urgent – and perhaps not even then.
In addition, there are more than 3 million LGBTQI+ older people living in the United States. LGBTQI+ elders are already less likely than their heterosexual and cisgender peers to reach out to health and aging providers, like senior centers, meal programs, and other programs designed to ensure their health and wellness, because they fear discrimination and harassment. The devastating impact of the virus on older people – the current mortality rate is at 15% for this population – makes this a huge issue for the LGBTQI+ communities as well.
LGBTQI+ communities are very familiar with the phenomena of stigma and epidemics. We want to urge people involved with the virus response to ensure that LGBTQI+ communities are adequately served during this outbreak. Depending on your role, appropriately serving our communities could involve any of the following actions:
- Ensuring that media coverage notes the particular vulnerabilities of any person with pre-existing respiratory illnesses, compromised immune systems or who uses tobacco products. While populations – like LGBTQI+ communities – can be at increased risk, it is important to note the overall state of health that contributes to any person’s increased vulnerability to contracting COVID-19.
- Ensuring health messaging includes information tailored to communities at increased risk for COVID-19, including LGBTQI+ populations.
- Providing LGBTQI+ individuals resources to find welcoming providers, such as the ones provided here: https://cancer-network.org/coronavirus-2019-what-lgbtq-people-need-to-know/, if they are experiencing symptoms like a cough or fever and need to seek medical attention.
- Whenever possible ensuring health agencies partner with community-based organizations to message through channels we trust.
- Ensuring health workers are directed to provide equal care to all regardless of their actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity/presentation, ability, age, national origin, immigration status, race, or ethnicity.
- Ensuring that all COVID-19 responses take into account exceptionally vulnerable members of the LGBTQI+ communities, including our elders, bi people, and black and brown trans and gender nonconforming/nonbinary people.
- Since xenophobic responses are heavily impacting the Asian American communities, ensuring all communications and responses related to COVID-19 attempt to counter any such xenophobic responses, avoid racial profiling, and discourage the public from doing so as well.
- Ensuring LGBTQI+ health leadership, along with all providers and health care centers, are provided with timely and accurate information to disseminate.
Thank you for working together. Our priority is to keep everyone informed during this time.