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Why The Transgender Population May Be More Susceptable To COVID-19

Kaeden Kass, left, and his partner Will Bastien both had COVID-19.
Courtesy of Kaeden Kass
Kaeden Kass, left, and his partner Will Bastien both had COVID-19.

The pandemic is exposing an increased socioeconomic vulnerability for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) populations, according to a new survey.For transgender people, it may come down to a variety of factors, says an University of Cincinnati doctor.

Dr. Sarah Pickle can't track the entire Tri-State transgender community to see who is having COVID-19 symptoms and who is testing positive. But, she says, "Of the patients I have who  have called me with COVID symptoms - who've been confirmed COVID and by testing or assigned COVID, based on symptoms - most of them are my transgender folks."

Seventy-five percent of her patients are transgender, gender non-binary or gender diverse, including Kaeden Kass.

He contracted the coronavirus in early April and was so sick he had trouble walking from the living room to the kitchen in a three-room house.

Kass has an autoimmune disease that causes severe back pain. "I have to believe that was one of the factors that led to me getting COVID and getting it so early," he says. "I just have a weaker immune system because of that."

In fact, one in five transgender adults have at least one chronic illness according to the National Center for Transgender Equality.

Kass's partner Will Bastien also contracted COVID-19 and so did Zoey Peach. She's a health educator who is transgender. Peach had COVID-19 in March.

Peach says a large segment of trans people are scared of going to the doctor. "They've reported in a number of national surveys they have experienced discrimination in a health care settling. So they may not seek health care when they were sick or for testing."

Because large percentages are not going to a physician, Dr. Pickle says underlying health factors may get missed and that is putting them at greater risk for the coronavirus. She also says they have less access to insurance, stable employment and housing, and those are all factors related to health.

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With more than 30 years of journalism experience in the Greater Cincinnati market, Ann Thompson brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her reporting. She has reported for WKRC, WCKY, WHIO-TV, Metro Networks and CBS/ABC Radio. Her work has been recognized by the Associated Press and the Society of Professional Journalists. In 2019 and 2011 A-P named her “Best Reporter” for large market radio in Ohio. She has won awards from the Association of Women in Communications and the Alliance for Women in Media. Ann reports regularly on science and technology in Focus on Technology.