California issues emergency regulation requiring COVID-19 test labs to collect race, gender identity data

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Labs and providers collecting COVID-19 tests in California are now required to request data on race and sexual orientation, according to announcement from the state Tuesday.

"Improving our data is like getting a new pair of glasses that helps us see more clearly," said California's Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly. "Using binoculars that help us see a little bit further out."

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If you're trying to get a COVID-19 test, be prepared to answer specific questions. Labs and providers collecting tests will ask about race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and gender identity.

"We expect over the course of the next month... we'll see improvements in the use of these fields," said Dr. Ghaly. "We will use this data to effectively see how our interventions are working and close disparities."
Crucial data to track, especially as some disparities are deepening.

In May, the Latino population made up 47% of total COVID-19 cases across the state.

Now, that percentage has spiked to 56% this week.

WATCH: Nearly 80% of Marin County COVID-19 cases are Latino, largest racial disparity in Bay Area

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In California, Latinos make up more than 50% of COVID-19 cases. But in Marin County, the disparity is even starker. 

A similar disparity is seen in the African American population which makes up 4.3% for total COVID-19 cases across the state. Yet, the African American death rate is nearly twice that.

"About a third of our cases reported to the state don't come with race and ethnicity data," said Dr. Ghaly.
But, as State Sen. Scott Weiner (D-San Francisco) points out, data collection on sexual orientation is next to none.

"We are not collecting data on the LGBTQ community," Sen. Weiner said. "Even though we have risk factors... it makes it very hard to make those resource decisions."

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Sen. Weiner introduced legislation back in February pushing for the state to establish a list of communicable and non-communicable diseases. Everything from influenza to Hepatitis C.

"When you don't collect data on a community," Sen. Weiner said. "You are essentially making that community invisible."

California is the first state in the country to be collecting data on the LGBTQ community for all infectious diseases.

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