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California to add sexual orientation, gender identity to COVID data collection efforts

US: California will expand its COVID-19 data collection efforts to include race, ethnicity, gender identity and sexual orientation, a health official announced on Tuesday, July 28.

"Improving our data is like getting a new pair of glasses that helps us see more clearly. Or using binoculars. And help us see a little further out," said Dr. Mark Ghaly, the state's secretary of health and human services. The move expands the data reporting requirements for providers and laboratories carrying out testing. California Department of Public Health currently requires race and ethnicity to be collected, but Ghaly said they lack data for those two areas for about a third of the cases they've received.

The goal is to "have a better sense of where transmission is happening, which communities are impacted and what the magnitude of that impact will be," Ghaly said. Among those particularly impacted is the state's Latino community, which Ghaly said is becoming ill and dying from COVID-19 at far greater rates than other groups. Latinos make up 39% of the population in the most populous U.S. state, but account for 56% of COVID-19 infections and 46% of deaths, he said.
Also of concern is a high death rate for African-Americans who contract the disease, although progress has been made lowering the group's overall infection rate, Ghaly said. African-Americans make up 6% of California's population and account for 4% of COVID-19 infections but 8.5% of deaths, he said. Whites, who make up 37% of the population, account for 17.5% of cases and 30% of deaths, state data show.

The news comes as California and several other states grapple with a spike in infections this month. The surge has overwhelmed hospitals and forced a U-turn on steps to reopen economies after the end of lockdowns put in place in March and April to slow the spread of the virus.

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