BELMONT CRAGIN — Actor Sean Penn and world-renowned chef José Andrés joined Mayor Lori Lightfoot Monday in Belmont Cragin to highlight a partnership with the city to expand coronavirus testing.
Penn and Andrés, both humanitarians, are leaders of groups helping on the front lines of the pandemic.
Penn is the co-founder of Community Organized Relief Effort, known as CORE, which has partnered with the city to establish six testing sites, mostly in Black and Brown communities that have been disproportionately affected by the virus. Andrés is the founder of World Central Kitchen, a nonprofit that will provide meals to workers and teams staffing the testing sites.
Speaking at the test center at Prieto Math and Science Academy, 2231 N. Central Ave., Lightfoot said CORE reached out to the city and began testing symptomatic residents last week in Belmont Cragin and at Maria Saucedo Scholastic Academy in Little Village. The organization has helped bring 200,000 free tests to California, Georgia, North Carolina, Michigan and the Navajo Nation.
So far, the two sites in Chicago have done more than 800 tests since opening last week, Lightfoot said.
Four more sites will be open soon, including one in the parking lot of Guaranteed Rate Field, which will focus on asymptomatic frontline workers battling the pandemic. The remaining sites will open over the next several weeks at Kennedy-King College in Englewood, Senka Park in Gage Park and at Gately Park in Pullman.
Lightfoot said the tests are free and no one should worry about their information being used by the government.
“You can get tested regardless of your citizenship status,” Lightfoot said. “Please come out of the shadows and make sure you are taking advantage of the opportunity to get tested, get well, get connected on the services and do not let your citizenship status be a barrier.”
Belmont Cragin is among a group of predominately Latino neighborhoods with the highest number of coronavirus cases in the state.
The 60639 ZIP code, which includes Belmont Cragin and Hermosa, had 2,124 confirmed coronavirus cases as of last week, according to Illinois Department of Public Health data.
That ZIP code had a coronavirus test positivity case rate of 39 percent Thursday, according to the data.
Test positivity measures the proportion of people who are tested for a disease and have contracted it. In other words, more than one in three people tested for COVID-19 in the 60639 ZIP code have coronavirus.
Such a high test positivity rate indicates very few residents are being tested, experts said. The city had a test positivity rate of 24 percent as of Thursday.
Penn said he thinks of CORE as an “unbureaucratic weapon in the arsenal of bureaucracies” and said it’s important for charities and governments to work together to address all aspects of hardship in the current situation.
“Testing and tracing doesn’t do much if you have to quarantine someone who is in a food desert or without financial assistance to take care of their families, so without organizations like World Central Kitchen … we depend on each other,” Penn said.
He also urged residents to listen to the advice of Lightfoot and her team.
“If you have leadership like you have in the city of Chicago, hear that leadership. Have faith in it because that’s what’s going to show the best care of your neighbors,” Penn said.
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