Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Monday promised an aggressive public health campaign targeting black and Latino communities because an overwhelming number of African-Americans have died of COVID-19, according to preliminary data.
Black residents accounted for 52% of confirmed cases of the new coronavirus and 72% of deaths from disease-related complications in the city, despite the fact that they make up just 30% of the city’s population, according to the local public health agency.
Chicago public health experts said the trend came as no surprise to anyone familiar with the age-old barriers to healthcare in a city that is geographically divided: residents in the south and west of the city historically have They have less access to the public health system, have higher poverty rates and work in jobs that require them to continue presenting themselves at their workplace, while others can work from home.
Similar conditions characterize other metropolises with large black populations that have outbreaks of coronavirus, such as New York, Detroit, Milwaukee, and New Orleans. Figures released Monday by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services showed that African-Americans, who represent 14% of the state’s population, have made up 33% of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the state and 41% of deaths. .
However, Mayor Lightfoot said the disparities in Chicago “leave you speechless” and require an immediate response from the city, activists and health care providers.
A new team of city and community representatives will focus on contacting residents over the age of 50 and those who are considered vulnerable to the virus due to pre-existing diseases to give them information on prevention and resources for those who become ill.
The city’s transit system will increase surveillance on its buses and add vehicles to lines that are still heavily used, and city inspectors will visit supermarkets and small stores to implement social distancing measures, the mayor said.
“We cannot just wait and let this disease wreak havoc in our communities,” Lightfoot said. “There are lives that are truly at risk.”
The city’s public health commissioner also ordered all medical service providers to collect information on the race and ethnicity of infected patients, seeking to address existing gaps. The head of the department, the doctor Allison Arwady, said that a quarter of the results of the tests that have been sent to her office so far have not included that information.