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Coronavirus In Chicago: Lightfoot Vows To Fix Racial Divides That Have Worsened Crisis For Black, Brown Chicagoans

Latinos are facing the worst of the coronavirus crisis and have seen a huge surge in cases in recent weeks, newly released data shows.

The COVID-19 Testing Center at Innovative Express Care in the Lincoln Park neighborhood on Monday, April 27, 2020.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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CHICAGO — Latinos are facing the worst of the coronavirus crisis and have seen a huge surge in cases in recent weeks, newly released data show.

The city and state released information Wednesday showing Latinos are being disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. Officials said they’d step up efforts to help Latinos, including increasing testing and outreach in Latino communities.

But the numbers paint a startling picture: There have been 7,770 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Latino Chicagoans, more than any other racial or ethnic group in the city.

Latinos now account for 28.2 percent of all cases in Chicago, a huge uptick from what was seen just a month ago. And the spike is still going on even as Chicago overall has seen a flattening in its curve.

For example, there were 7,156 confirmed cases among Latinos on Tuesday, meaning confirmed cases in that population grew by 614 in one day. Similarly, deaths among Latinos jumped from 266 on Tuesday to 283 by Wednesday.

Here’s the breakdown of cases in the city:

  • Latino: 7,770 cases, 28.2 percent of total
  • Black: 7,261 cases, 26.3 percent
  • White: 3,502 cases, 12.7 percent
  • Asian: 667 cases, 2.4 percent
  • Other: 1,034 cases, 3.7 percent
  • Under investigation: 7,334 cases, 26.6 percent

Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Dr. Allison Arwady, head of the Chicago Department of Public Health, said the growth in confirmed cases for Latinos is due in part to increased testing in Latino communities and their efforts to get more demographic data.

RELATED: Coronavirus Cases More Than Double In Chicago’s Latino Community

But officials said Latinos experienced health care disparities before the pandemic, and they face unique challenges that can make it harder to slow the spread of coronavirus: They’re more likely to work in essential jobs, meaning they have to go to work and risk being exposed; they’re more likely to live in multigenerational homes or crowded housing; and they might struggle to get health care or educational information because they do not speak English or fear anti-Latino sentiment.

Ald. Ray Lopez (15th) also said the city hasn’t moved fast enough to bring testing to Brown and Black communities. Black people have also faced a disproportionate impact from coronavirus.

Lightfoot vowed to focus more on Latino communities and said the city will do more outreach — in multiple languages — through videos and fliers distributed to Latino residents.

“We have to build a foundation to address the health disparities for COVID and beyond,” Lightfoot said. “These divides weren’t created overnight and they won’t be solved overnight, but this has got to be a call to action for all of us.”

Like Lightfoot, Gov. JB Pritzker said the state is seeing a disproportionate number of cases among Latinos and will ramp up efforts to stop the surge and save lives.

Lightfoot has a press conference at 1 p.m. and Pritzker has his daily coronavirus briefing at 2:30 p.m.

Coronavirus Cases

• There have been 68,232 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Illinois as of Wednesday afternoon. Many of those patients have recovered since testing positive.

• At least 2,974 people have died in Illinois as a result of the virus.

• There have been 27,568 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Chicago and at least 1,152 people have died.

If You Need Help

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

What’s Happening In Chicago

Keep Isolating: It’s not safe to hug your mom on Mother’s Day or to start expanding your “quarantine circle,” doctors said.

West Side Testing: Saint Anthony Hospital received a 15-minute COVID test machine — but none of the resources to use it.

Summer Jobs: My Block, My Hood, My City is creating a program to connect teens to seniors in need for summer jobs.

Lakeview Pantry: The pantry has seen demand for assistance skyrocket amid the crisis.

• Reopening: Pritzker unveiled his five-step plan for reopening Illinois and restarting the state’s economy.

• Concerts, Festivals: Large events will remain banned in Illinois until there’s a vaccine, widespread and effective treatment or no new cases for a prolonged period.

 “Still At War:” Though the weather is getting nicer, people must continue to stay at home so Illinois can win its war against COVID-19, Ezike said.

• Restaurants: The city’s eateries are urging customers to skip GrubHub and similar services and order directly from them so they can make it through the crisis.

• Help for Artists: The statewide Artist Relief Fund is again taking applications.

• Food Supply: Pop-up food pantries are coming to the South and West sides to aid people during the pandemic.

• Housing: The city created a “pledge” to put pressure on banks and landlords to keep people in their homes amid the pandemic.

 Deaths: Coronavirus has likely killed hundreds more people in Illinois than has been counted by the state, a new analysis found.

• Domestic Abuse: Survivors of domestic violence can get free hotel rooms during the pandemic.

 Masks: Everyone is now required to wear a face covering or mask when unable to social distance. And yes, stores can require you to wear a face covering if you want to shop.

Here’s what you need to know about the requirement.

• Testing: Officials are now saying anyone with coronavirus symptoms can get tested in Illinois. Before, they’d advised most people to simply stay at home and assume they had coronavirus.

Here’s where you can get tested in Chicago.

Symptoms

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 or difficulty breathing
  • Chills and shaking with chills
  • Muscle pain
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Loss of taste and/or smell

People have also experienced body aches, nasal congestion and runny nose, 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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