LITTLE VILLAGE — A Southwest Side alderman and a coalition of community groups are urging city leaders to expand coronavirus testing and extend free flu shots through the winter.
Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25th) and a coalition dubbed the People’s Response want city and state officials to prioritize adding permanent testing sites in Black and Latino communities.
“The testing that we need in our community hasn’t gotten to our communities,” Sigcho-Lopez said at a press conference outside the Piotrowski Park Field house in Little Village on Tuesday.
“We have been promised time after time that we will expand testing capabilities. We haven’t had that.”
The group also wants the city to provide more flu shots through its free program. The current offering of free flu vaccines is slated to run until Saturday.
“This is unacceptable,” Lonette Sims, co-chair Black Women Organizing for Power, said of the ending of free flu vaccines. “Approximately 270,000 lack health insurance. We need this vital resource now, especially during [the] pandemic.”
The state reported 12,623 confirmed coronavirus cases Tuesday, bringing the total in Illinois up to 511,183. Seventy-nine more people were reported to have died in the past day.
At least 3,153 Chicagoans have died from the disease.
ZIP Codes on the Southwest Side have seen a surge in recent weeks, and Latino Chicagoans continue to see a disproportionate number of new cases.
But many Chicagoans are finding it difficult to get tested for coronavirus, which local health leaders are increasingly advising. The city’s permanent and mobile testing sites had reached registration capacity Tuesday morning. On Monday, some residents who had registered to get tested at a mobile site in Pilsen were turned away.
Dr. Howard Ehrman, former assistant commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, said the city needs to convert field houses and high school gymnasiums into permanent testing sites through the pandemic.
Ehrman, a University of Illinois at Chicago professor who also served as Will County’s chief medical officer during the West African Ebola virus epidemic, said the two-and-a-half permanent testing sites are simply not enough.
Sigcho-Lopez said universal testing is “imperative” to support essential workers and communities with essential workers.
“To the workers in our businesses, we are failing them as a city, we are failing them as a city,” he said.
“Latinos and African Americans have been disproportionately affected, but yet we see how low our numbers are in terms of testing. How are we going to prevent more people getting sick without adequate testing?”
The Chicago Department of Public Health did not respond to a request for comment.
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