COVID-19: What LGBT People Need to Know

LGBT people are likely worried about the potential impact of COVID-19 on their health. People at particular risk should talk to their health providers about their options for protecting themselves from infection.

Updated May 27, 2021

  • Starting on June 28th Pennsylvania's mask order will be completely lifted, or possibly sooner, if 70% of residents get their second dose of vaccine.
  • On May 12th, CDC recommends COVID-19 vaccination for everyone 12 years of age and older to help protect against COVID-19. Children 12 years of age and older are able to get the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine.
  • On May 4th, the Wolf administration, in coordination with the COVID-19 Vaccine Joint Task Force, announced that mitigation orders except masking will be lifted on Memorial Day, Monday, May 31 at 12:01 AM. 
  • As of April 13th, Pennsylvanians are in Phase 2 of Pennsylvania's vaccine rollout. All Pennsylvanians age 16 and older are eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. Once you are part of a group that is eligible for vaccination, use the map to find a place to schedule your vaccine — unless you live in Philadelphia County (in which case, go here).

What you can start to do if you've been fully vaccinated:

  • Visiting with other fully vaccinated people indoors without wearing masks or physical distancing.
  • Visiting with unvaccinated people (including children) from a single household who are at low risk for severe COVID-19 disease indoors without wearing masks or physical distancing.
  • Participating in outdoor activities and recreation without a mask, except in certain crowded settings and venues.
  • Resuming domestic travel and refraining from testing before or after travel, or self-quarantine after travel.
  • Refraining from testing before leaving the United States for international travel (unless required by the destination) and refraining from self-quarantine after arriving back in the United States.
  • Refraining from testing following a known exposure, if asymptomatic, with some exceptions for specific settings.
  • Refraining from quarantine following a known exposure if asymptomatic.
  • Refraining from routine COVID-19 testing if asymptomatic and if feasible.

What you should keep doing:

  • Take precautions like wearing a well-fitted mask in indoor public settings.
  • Wear masks that fit snuggly when visiting indoors with unvaccinated people who are at increased risk for severe COVID-19 disease or who have an unvaccinated household member who is at increased risk for severe COVID-19 disease.
  • Wear well-fitted masks when visiting indoors with unvaccinated people from multiple households.
  • Avoid indoor large-sized, in-person gatherings.
  • Get tested if experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.
  • Follow guidance issued by individual employers.
  • Follow CDC and health department travel requirements and recommendations.

What is Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center doing?

Our organization prioritizes health promotion and health equity for the LGBT community, so we are taking COVID-19 seriously and are taking the following precautionary measures:

Why are LGBT people at particular risk for COVID-19? 

LGBT people are at particular risk for COVID-19 as a result of several factors: 

We use tobacco at rates that are 50% higher than the general population. COVID-19 is a respiratory illness that has proven particularly harmful to smokers. 

Higher rates of HIV and cancer among LGBT individuals mean that a greater number of us may have compromised immunity, leaving us more vulnerable to Coronavirus infection.

LGBT people experience health disparities. Health disparities affect the potential COVID-19 impact on us in two ways: 

  1. Access to care barriers leaves us less likely to get medical care, and
  2. Existing health disparities mean more of us live in a state of compromised health. 

What can I do to avoid getting COVID-19?

From what we know about transmission now, there are clear steps we can all take to reduce this risk. Prolonged close exposure to airborne droplets from the breathing of someone who is shedding the virus is thought to be the main route for transmission. Try to minimize time spent in close quarters with other people inside. Whenever possible keep 6’ away from other people and stay outside. Practicing good pandemic hygiene including frequent hand washing and avoiding touching your mouth, nose, or eyes will reduce your risk of any surface-related exposure. 

There is evidence of transmission by people who appear healthy. These people may be presymptomatic (about to show symptoms) but the important point is they can transmit the virus without understanding they are sick. 

Plus, you can download the free COVID PA Alert app on your phone to report symptoms of COVID-19, while also providing data on daily user check-ins and a breakdown of cases statewide. It's completely safe and your information is secure.

Download the COVID PA Alert app


Are there special precautions that LGBT people should take?

If an LGBT person has cancer, smokes, is living with unsuppressed HIV, is over 65 years old, or has any other fragile health condition, consider taking additional measures to avoid risk of infection. This could include more vigilance about staying away from symptomatic people, it could include avoiding larger gatherings of people, and should definitely include practicing excellent epidemic hygiene, like frequent hand washing and breaking habits of face-touching.

All smokers should know they can access free tobacco cessation services by calling or visiting

1-800-QUIT NOW

What should I do if I think I may have this COVID-19?

Hospital hotlines for phone screening and determination if you need a COVID-19 test:

Lehigh Valley Health Network: 1-800-402-LVHN and ask for MyLVHNRN to be screened. More info from LVHN is available here

St. Luke's University Health Network: 1-866-785-8537, option 7. More info from St. Luke's is available here

Please do not go an ER until you have called one of the hotlines.

As you travel to get health care, remember: 

  • Cover your mouth in some way so you do not unwittingly transmit to others, and 
  • Wash your own hands frequently and minimize touching common surfaces.

Staying home while you are sick is the best way to avoid further transmitting the disease to others. 

Mental Health Resources during social distancing:

This time can be very hard for so many of us. When you may need them, please reach out to these resources below. They are very helpful to many of us.

RELATED RESOURCES: 

MORE INFORMATION: 

Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center has produced videos featuring drag performer Mandy Mango to help keep our community informed:

Safe brunching / happy hours during COVID-19

Sexual health during COVID-19

Keep washing your hands

Information on this page is provided in partnership with the National LGBT Cancer Network and Lehigh Valley Health Network. Developed resources reported in this project are supported by the National Network of Libraries of Medicine (NNLM), National Institutes of Health (NIH) under cooperative agreement number UG4LM012342 with the University of Pittsburgh, Health Sciences Library System. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health. Additional support provided by Gamma Mu Foundation.

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