HUMBOLDT PARK — Coronavirus continues to hit the Black and Latino communities of Chicago hard, as evidenced by early test results coming from Norwegian American Hospital in Humboldt Park.
During Gov. JB Pritzker’s Thursday COVID-19 briefing, Norwegian’s president, Jose Sanchez, said more than 80 percent of people tested at the hospital have been Latino or African American — and half have tested positive.
That’s significantly above the roughly 21 percent of positive results testing sites have seen throughout Illinois on average.
Sanchez said a combination of factors has contributed to higher rates of infection for Blacks and Latinos.
“Our Humboldt Park community is rich in cultural diversity but struggles with poverty, substance use disorders, diabetes, cancer, heart disease, lack of some basic needs,” Sanchez said. “Additionally, crowded housing is common, more than twice as likely compared to other neighborhoods in our city here.”
Crowded housing has been linked to increased rates of COVID-19, as a ProPublica investigation revealed Thursday. Even in less-dense neighborhoods, when multiple generations of a family are under one roof, the virus is more likely to spread.
Humboldt Park has suffered from a lack of resources for decades, creating high unemployment and low educational attainment, Sanchez said. The majority of the children in the neighborhood are considered low income and nearly half of residents in Humboldt Park are considered “food insecure,” compared to 13 percent nationwide, Sanchez said.
Humboldt Park has high rates of infant mortality, cervical cancer and asthma. The neighborhood also has one of the highest rates of diabetes in the country, according to Sanchez.
“To no surprise, these inequities have continued with the COVID-19 pandemic and have placed these patients at high risk,” he said.
In an email, Sanchez added while the hospital is busy after opening up COVID-19 testing, they’re still able to accept new patients and they have a “surge plan” in place should that change.
He also said the hospital currently has enough staff to meet the needs of their patients but is constantly reassessing staffing needs “to ensure safe patient ratios.”
“By the end of this week, we will have completed hundreds of tests,” Sanchez said. “Due to the health inequities, it is critical we identify the individuals that have COVID-19 early so we can provide interventions and prevent the spread of virus in our underserved communities.”
The tests at Norwegian are by appointment and are only for people 18 or older. People who have coronavirus symptoms can call the hospital directly at 773-292-8363 2-4 p.m. Monday-Friday to schedule an appointment.
Norwegian is the first medical facility in Humboldt Park to offer COVID-19 testing, said Cesar Rolon, who does public relations work for Rincon Family Services, one of the testing partners.
The testing is being done in partnership with Pritzker’s office, Rincon Family Services and the Puerto Rican Cultural Center.
Norwegian has offered telehealth support during the coronavirus pandemic. The hospital also offers low-income patients additional support including care packages and mental health counseling.
The hospital received a large donation of hand sanitizer and cleaning solutions from White Glove Sanitation Chemicals and Rincon Family Services, according to the news release.
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