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Austin, Garfield Park, North Lawndale

Coronavirus Testing Coming To West, South Side Clinics

Officials hope the tests can help Illinois as it tries to battle health care disparities for Black people during the pandemic.

State Rep. La Shawn Ford with Rep. Danny K. Davis and hospital leaders of Loretto Hospital.
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CHICAGO — Four clinics on the West and South sides of Chicago will soon be able to test people for coronavirus.

Gov. JB Pritzker said four health centers — two on the West Side and two on the South Side — will partner with Lurie Children’s Hospital for the testing. The facilities will be able to start doing 400 tests per day starting within the next several days.

It was not immediately clear who would be able to get the testing or through what process it could be requested by a person. The clinics serve people who are underinsured, low-income or who do not have insurance.

The tests will be collected at the clinics and sent to Lurie Children’s Hospital, where they’ll be processed for results.

The clinics:

  • Lawndale Christian Health Center
  • PCC Community Wellness Center
  • Chicago Family Health Center
  • Friend Family Health Center

The move comes after Pritzker and other officials acknowledged there has been dramatic racial disparities during the pandemic. Data has shown Black people in Chicago and Illinois are getting coronavirus and dying from it at a disproportionate rate.

Just Thursday, hospitals and neighborhood leaders reached out for help, saying there were no testing sites on the West Side.

In Chicago, 52 percent of COVID-19 diagnoses have been in people who are Black, and 70 percent of the people dying from coronavirus are Black — even though only 30 percent of Chicago is Black.

These health care disparities have existed for centuries, but they’re being exacerbated by the pandemic, officials say.

“Generations of systemic disadvantages in health care delivery and in health care access in communities of color — and Black communities, in particular — are now amplified in this crisis,” Pritzker said Friday.

The first step to fighting that is providing more ubiquitous testing, Pritzker said, which is what the state is now trying to do on the South and West sides, where a large population of Black Chicagoans live.

The state aims to collect and release more data on the race and ethnicity of people who are tested, and the city has taken steps to reach out to Black Chicagoans to help them access health care and to educate them on coronavirus.

Besides having more difficulty accessing healthy food, Black Chicagoans face a swathe of problems that fuel the disparity: They’re more likely to live with chronic disease, like diabetes and heart disease, which make COVID-19 riskier; they are less likely to have cars, so they can’t partake in drive-thru testing; they’re less likely to have a primary care physician whom they can rely on; and they can’t always practice social distancing because they’re more likely to have to rely on crowded corner stores for food or buses for transportation.

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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