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Why are LGBT people at particular risk for Coronavirus 2019? 

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) people are at particular risk for Coronavirus disease 2019 (or COVID-19) as a result of several factors: 

We use tobacco at rates that are 50% higher than the general population. Coronavirus 2019 is a respiratory illness that has proven particularly harmful to smokers. 

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

LGBTQ+ people experience health disparities. Health disparities affect the potential Coronavirus 2019 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 this coronavirus?

There is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19. 

If you are planning to travel, note all travel restrictions and advisories issued by Centers Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or the World Health Organization (WHO).

Stay tuned to alerts by your local or state health departments about advisories related to your region.

Avoid being within three feet of people who show symptoms of illness. Instead of kissing or shaking hands, consider bumping elbows or touching your heart in greeting.

While there is no accurate estimation of how long Coronavirus 2019 can remain infectious after virus droplets land on surfaces, similar Coronaviruses have shown they can remain infectious for up to nine days. (As comparison, a flu virus remains infectious for about 24 hours.) This means there is likely a greater risk of catching Coronavirus 2019 from a surface. 

Coronavirus does not get into our body through our skin, it gets into our body through  mucous membranes. The most common route of transmission is from the hands (which touch the infected surface) to the mucous membranes on our faces. One study of medical students showed they touched their faces on average 23 times every hour. While we cannot always control our exposure to the virus, we can control the behaviors that make it easier for this virus to get into our bodies. 

  1. Every time we wash our hands correctly, we kill any Coronavirus on our hands. This includes washing for at least 20 seconds with any type of soap, being sure to get all hand surfaces scrubbed. If soap is not available hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol will also work. 

  2. When we stop touching our face with our hands, we also interrupt the highway of transmission. It is thought that we touch our faces so often as a way to comfort ourselves. Start practicing changing this pattern now, it will help you avoid not just this Coronavirus, but many other common viral infections as well. Even something as simple as using a tissue to touch our face instead of our fingers can stop this transmission vector.

  3. A face mask is only recommended if you are ill, it is not effective in protecting you from becoming ill. 

Are there special precautions that LGBT people should take?

If an LGBT person has cancer, smokes, is 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 coronavirus?

As with any infectious respiratory disease, if you are ill you should avoid contact with others until your symptoms have resolved. Stay home and contact either your physician or a local urgent care provider if you believe you are experiencing COVID symptoms. Phone or digital contact is a preferred first step because it allows care providers to properly advise you and to prepare for your arrival to the care setting, if necessary.

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Tower Health can be reached by phone at (484) 628-4357. The Tower Health Testing Centers below are open 9 am to 9 pm unless noted otherwise:

​10050 Roosevelt Boulevard, Philadelphia, PA 19116


215 Lancaster Avenue, Malvern, PA 19355


930 West Street Road, Warminster, PA 18974


1050 East Philadelphia Ave, Gilbertsville, PA 19525


580 West Germantown Pike, Plymouth Meeting, PA, 19462


1212 Liggett Avenue, Reading, PA, 19611

(Open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.)

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Penn State Health St. Joseph can be contacted at (610) 378-2000 and opened a drive-thru testing site on its Bern Township Campus for those who have been evaluated by a provider and given an order for the test. The drive-thru testing site is located at 2500 Bernville Road in Reading. β€‹

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The Berks Community Health Center hotline is available at (610) 988-4838.  β€‹

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As you travel to get health care, remember: 

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  • 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.

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

Background on Coronavirus 2019

Coronavirus disease 2019 (or COVID-19) is a respiratory illness caused by a novel (or new) coronavirus that was first identified in an outbreak in Wuhan, China, in December 2019. It is a respiratory illness that spreads from person to person through small droplets expelled when a person coughs or sneezes. 

Symptoms can range from mild to severe. They usually include a fever, dry cough, and shortness of breath. Currently there is an estimated fatality rate of 3.4% for people with COVID-19; it is highest for men, people over 60, and smokers. We have no information what the fatality rate might be for people with HIV or other immunosuppressed individuals, like those undergoing cancer care.

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.