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Coronavirus In Chicago: City Rolls Out Plan To Combat COVID-19 In Black Communities

Plus, the state is pleading with people to stay home and to practice social distancing despite warm weather Tuesday.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot at a press conference announcing a statewide stay-in-place order Friday, March 20.
Colin Boyle/ Block Club Chicago
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CHICAGO — Local officials are ramping up their efforts to protect Black Chicagoans, who are being hit disproportionately hard by the pandemic, newly released data shows.

About 52 percent of Chicagoans with confirmed COVID-19 are Black, and 72 percent of the people dying from coronavirus here are black — though just 30 percent of people in the city are Black.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Dr. Allison Arwady, head of the Chicago Department of Public Health, said on Monday they’re making changes so they can better track the number of people of color who are infected.

The city is also setting up a Racial Equity Rapid Response Team and will further its outreach efforts out to people in “economically vulnerable communities” on the South and West sides, Lightfoot said.

“When we talk about equity and inclusion, they’re not just nice notions. They are an imperative that we must embrace as a city,” Lightfoot said. “And we see this even more urgently when we look at these numbers and this disparity. It’s unacceptable.”

Gov. JB Pritzker is also expected to talk about statewide racial disparities at his Tuesday briefing on coronavirus.

But in Chicago and across the state, the numbers show significant health disparities. People of color experienced this disparities before the pandemic, officials said, and coronavirus is only exacerbating things.

On Monday, Pritzker said Illinois as a whole is trying to combat the disparity and save Black lives by opening “field hospitals” — MetroSouth in Blue Island and Westlake Hospital in Melrose Park — in areas with sizable communities of color.

The state is also using social media and campaigns to urge everyone to stay at home, wash their hands and take other precautions to protect their health and slow the spread of coronavirus.

Dr. Ngozi Ezike, head of the Illinois Department of Public Health, emphasized that in particular Monday, noting that Tuesday will hit 70 degrees — but everyone should stay home.

Lightfoot will have a press conference at 9:30 a.m. and Pritzker will have his daily briefing on coronavirus at 2:30 p.m.

• Read more here: Black Chicagoans Are Dying Of Coronavirus More Than Everyone Else: ‘This Is Unacceptable,’ Mayor Says

Coronavirus Cases

• There have been 12,262 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Illinois as of Monday afternoon. Some of those patients have recovered since testing positive.

• There have been 5,043 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Chicago.

• Illinois has seen 307 deaths as a result of the virus so far.

• A man being detained at Cook County Jail has died from coronavirus.

If You Need Help

• Sick? Broke? Want To Help? Here’s A Massive List Of Coronavirus Resources In Chicago

What’s Happening In Chicago

Non-Essential Businesses: Some businesses have remained open, breaking the state’s stay at home order and facing fines up to $10,000. “It’s profits over people,” one worker said.

Nice Weather: It might be warm out Tuesday, but officials are begging people to stay home.

Officials have particularly asked people not to congregate at city parks amid the nice weather. The city is cracking down on those crowds.

• Racial Disparities: More than 70 percent of the people who have died from coronavirus in Chicago are Black. Officials said the pandemic is exacerbating health disparities.

1099 Workers: Though the stimulus bill promised unemployment benefits to independent contractors, they’re now being asked to wait to apply — even as their savings are vanishing.

Sports Teams: The city’s most famous teams — including the White Sox, Blackhawks, Cubs and Bears — have teamed up to urge Chicagoans to stay home.

 Masks: Pritzker is now urging all Illinoisans to wear masks, even if just homemade cloth ones, when going outside to protect others.

• McCormick Place: The convention center was turned into a field hospital for coronavirus patients in just five days. It already has 500 beds, and another 2,500 will be set up by the end of the month.

• Incarcerated People: Pritzker said the state would care for incarcerated people just like it would any others during the outbreak — but hundreds of detained people have tested positive for coronavirus, and two men have died at Stateville. One sick inmate’s wife said she’s terrified.

And Cook County Jail has now seen a detainee die from the virus.

• Undocumented Chicagoans: A new fund that will help laid-off undocumented people is accepting applications.

• Rent and Mortgages: Aldermen are pushing for the state to act now to help renters — but Pritzker has said his hands are tied due to the state’s rent control ban. The state Legislature has to make changes, he said.

The city will give $1,000 grants to 2,000 Chicagoans to help with rent relief. You can apply online.

State officials have also contacted major mortgage lenders, like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, to ask them to offer multi-month forbearance to Illinoisans.

Pritzker has halted evictions throughout the state during the crisis.

• CPS: The district will continue giving away free meals, even during what would have been spring break. But some of the giveaway sites are being consolidated.

CPS is sending out 100,000 laptops and tablets to students so they can learn at home, with remote learning set to begin April 13. It could also be a sign schools will stay closed longer than first announced.

• Stay at Home: The state’s stay at home order has been extended through April 30. The order means non-essential businesses are shut down (here’s what remains open) and people are urged to stay home and practice social distancing as much as possible.

Police are issuing citations and fining people up to $500 if they don’t follow the state’s stay at home order. Those who don’t listen to warnings and citations could get arrested.

Chicagoans who have tested positive for coronavirus, or even those who simply have symptoms of coronavirus, are being ordered to stay home or risk up to $500 fines.

 Health Care Workers: Doctors, nurses and other health care workers who recently retired or left the profession are being urged to rejoin so they can help in the fight against coronavirus.

Information about “re-enlisting” is available online.


Coronavirus can be deadly, but the vast majority of cases have been mild. Those most at risk from the virus are people who are elderly or who have underlying health conditions.

Symptoms of coronavirus can appear two to 14 days after a person has been exposed to the virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control. People with no symptoms may have the virus and spread it to others.

The virus spreads between people through coughing and sneezing, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

The most common symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath

People have also experienced body aches, nasal congestion, runny nose and sore throat, according to Harvard Medical School.

If you or someone else has difficulty breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, become confused, cannot be roused or develop a bluish face or lips, get immediate medical attention, according to the CDC.

How To Protect Yourself

Here’s what you can actually do to prevent getting ill:

  • The CDC and other officials have said people should wash their hands often, including before, during and after eating; after using the bathroom; and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing.
    The CDC has a guide here for how to properly wash your hands. Remember: Wash with soap and water, scrubbing your hands for at least 20 seconds.
  • If you can’t wash your hands with soap and water, you can use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.
  • Avoid touching your face, especially your eyes, nose and mouth, with unwashed hands.
  • Clean and disinfect objects and surfaces you touch frequently, like cellphones and light switches. Here are tips from the CDC.
  • Stay home when you’re sick and avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • If you have to sneeze or cough with a tissue, throw it out immediately after using it, according to the CDC.

What To Do If You Think You’re Sick

Even if you’re not showing symptoms, the Chicago Department of Public Health recommends people coming from high-risk countries (here’s a CDC list) self-quarantine for 14 days after returning home.

If you do have symptoms of coronavirus, contact your primary doctor or a health care facility before going in. Explain your symptoms and tell them if you’ve come into close contact with anyone with coronavirus or traveled to an area where COVID-19 is widespread (here’s a CDC list) within the last 14 days, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

From there, the experts will work with your local health department to determine what to do and if you need to be tested for coronavirus, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

And, of course, if you think you’re sick with coronavirus, don’t risk exposing other people to the virus. Anyone who feels unwell has been ordered to stay home or risk getting a $500 fine.

Those with questions and concerns about coronavirus can call the Illinois Department of Public Health at 800-889-3931.

Block Club Chicago’s coronavirus coverage is free for all readers. Block Club is an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom.

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