Coronavirus Chicago: Mayor Lightfoot details efforts to alleviate COVID-19 impact in Latino community

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Chicago has seen a big surge in COVID-19 cases in the city's Latino community, and now officials are unveiling new efforts to stop the spread.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot held a press conference Wednesday afternoon to provide an update on the efforts of the Racial Equality Rapid Response Team to deal with the impact of COVID-19 on the Latino community.

Four weeks ago, Latinos accounted for 14% of Chicago's COVID-19 cases and 19% of the deaths. Now, the community makes up 37% of the cases and 25% of the fatalities, Lightfoot said.

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Mayor Lori Lightfoot held press conference Wednesday afternoon to provide an update on the efforts of the Racial Equality Rapid Response Team to deal with the impact of COVID-19 on

Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said as a city currently has 26,611 cases and 1096 deaths, up from 5,043 cases and 118 deaths one month ago.

"We haven't reached out where we need to be in communities of color," Lightfoot said.

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Activists say Latinx vulnerability to COVID-19 was entirely predictable, and a lack of leadership from the community in the mayor's task force has made things worse.

"We really need to see community leaders at the table who are trusted, who are experts, but who ultimately have their finger on the pulse of the community and can really advocate on our behalf," said Cristina Pacione-Zayas of the Puerto Rican Agenda of Chicago.

The mayor pushed back on that assertion in her press conference Wednesday, saying new data on what the disease is doing to the Latino community will drive City Hall's actions.

"Out infrastructure is strong. We're going to go block by block and reach Latinx community," Lightfoot said.

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Dr. Marina del Rios and Jaime di Paulo discuss COVID-19's spread in the Latinx community and resources available to help those impacted.

Mayor Lightfoot said the Racial Equality Rapid Response Team would be focusing on areas seeing the greatest rise in cases, with Latino communities on the Northwest and Southwest sides currently seeing the largest increase.

Lightfoot said the team would be tailoring resources for multilingual communications, including informational postcards and door hangers as well as reaching out to community partners, including union leaders in workforces with a large number of Latinos.

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There will also be a series of virtual town halls, with one talk focusing on seniors, one focusing on immigrant youth and another with broader focus.

On Chicago's Northwest Side, Norwegian American Hospital is offering free coronavirus testing in partnership with the city and state.

The hospital has ramped up testing to 50 patients per day.

"It is like everything else, you know, something happens and you begin to react and not until you see that it is real, you won't be able to take decisions and make it happen," said Jose Sanchez, the hospital's president and CEO.

Data from the Illinois Department of Public Health shows Latinos have the highest rate of infection in the state.

More than 60% of all Illinois Latinos tested for COVID-19 got positive results, and Latino infections are doubling at a faster rate than other ethnicity.

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While the number of deaths among Latinos remains significantly lower than for whites and African Americans, the number of infections is staggering.

Latino leaders believe the real numbers to be higher than reported because there is no ethnic data provided on more than half the total number of tests completed statewide. It is a gap they fear may lead to an even bigger problem down the road.

Three virtual town halls were held in the Auburn Gresham, Austin and South Shore neighborhoods and masks and informational door hangers were distributed in the neighborhoods.

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