COVID-19 cases spike in North Lawndale, Little Village despite community efforts

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Despite continued testing and vaccination efforts, cases have been spiking again in Chicago's 60623 zip code, an area that includes Little Village on one end and North Lawndale on the other.

"Early on in the pandemic, with the highest number of cases and also deaths of any zip code in the state of Illinois, we came together," said Alderman Michael Rodriguez of the 22nd Ward.

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Following a unified outreach effort between Rodriguez, health clinics, hospitals and non-profits, cases and deaths plummeted as 60623 experienced some of the highest vaccination rates among the city's Black and Brown communities. Then came the omicron variant. At 26.2%, the zip code has the highest test positivity rate in Chicago.

"Unfortunately, nothing has really changed in terms of dynamics," said St. Anthony Hospital Senior VP Jim Sifuentes. "The people that were impacted at beginning are still continuing to be affected in the same way."

Like other underserved communities, underlying health conditions and many other factors put people at high risk.

"And you have folks living in multi-generational households and with jobs that can't quarantine so it's kind of a perfect storm for this community," said Esperanza Health Center Interim Medical Director Linda Simon.

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Lack of access to testing has also been an issue. Esperanza Health Centers have been giving out thousands of free at-home tests to residents. Efforts to get more people vaccinated have continued there and at St. Anthony Hospital.

"We are still out there still promoting our vaccine clinics, doing pop-ups," said Sifuentes.

If there is a silver lining in the zip code, the omicron surge has resulted in a recent spike of vaccinations. St. Anthony Hospital said on New Year's Eve, close to 500 people came to get vaccinated there.
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