Chicago works to reach more black residents amid pandemic
CHICAGO (AP) — The number of black Chicago residents becoming infected with the coronavirus and those dying of the disease remains disproportionately high, city officials said Monday.
Black residents made up about 46% of the 12,571 confirmed tests for the coronavirus and about 60% of the 500 deaths in the city linked to COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, despite making up 30% of the city’s population.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot said the city and neighborhood organizations working to share information about the virus and preventing its spread are focused on three neighborhoods: Auburn Gresham, South Shore and Austin.
Health conditions that are more common among African Americans can make people more vulnerable to the virus, including diabetes and asthma. Experts also have pointed to higher uninsured rates and poorer access to health care among African Americans as an underlying cause of the gap.
Overall in the state, 31,508 people have tested positive as of Monday afternoon, a one-day increase of 1,151 cases, according to Illinois’ public health director. The death toll increased by 59 to 1,349.
Among those who have died was a Cook County Sheriff’s Office correctional officer. The department said Officer Sheila Rivera, 47, died on Sunday as a result of complications due to the virus. Rivera, an eight-year veteran of the department who was most recently assigned to the jail’s Residential Treatment Unit.
“The Sheriff’s Office considers her death to be in the line of duty and will be strongly advocating that her family receive all the benefits that designation affords,” the department said in a news release Monday announcing her death.
Rivera was one of 191 correctional officers who tested positive.
Four detainees who tested positive for the virus have died. As of late Sunday, the sheriff’s office said 194 detainees with “mild-to-moderate” symptoms were being treated by the county-operated hospital, located at the jail, with an additional 21 being treated at area hospitals.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.
An analysis done by The Associated Press using available state and local data through Thursday showed that nearly one-third of those who have died are African American, with black people representing about 14% of the population in the areas covered in the analysis.
Federal data on race remains limited, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday said 30% of patients to test positive for coronavirus and whose race was known were black. Racial information was missing for 75% of all cases, however, and the CDC did not include any breakdown on those who have died.
Lightfoot said Monday that maps showing higher rates of coronavirus cases and deaths in Chicago’s black and brown communities “illuminated the broken, and yes, racist system of inequality” that has cemented poverty and related issues for decades.
“We cannot sit idly by while this disease devastates certain parts of our communities,” she said.
Lightfoot said more than 60,000 face coverings will be distributed along with informational door hangers and flyers that are aimed at people who are older than 60, those who work essential jobs and those who share homes with multiple generations of family members.
The city is also planning a series of virtual town halls and an advertising campaign.
Earlier Monday, a northern Illinois nursing home where 22 residents have died announced the death of a second staffer.
Symphony of Joliet spokeswoman Lauryn Allison said that privacy laws prevented her from providing any more information. But Lakendel Evans told The (Joliet) Herald-News that her mother, Sandra Green, a 57-year-old certified nursing assistant, died at a Joliet hospital after spending 24 days on a ventilator.
Symphony of Joliet has been a focus amid the growing number of cases at the state’s long-term care facilities, and the city’s mayor has called for a state investigation of the facility.
Data released by Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s administration over the weekend showed that Symphony of Joliet and Windsor Manor of Carol Stream each had 81 COVID-19 cases, more than any such facility in Illinois. The data also showed that 286 coronavirus-related deaths — nearly a quarter of the state’s total — were linked to long-term care facilities.
Associated Press writer John O’Connor contributed from Springfield, Illinois.