CHICAGO (WLS) -- A new analysis of COVID-19 testing location data shows many cities across the country are struggling to reach Black and Latinx communities.
In Chicago, the findings are different: City and community leaders say they have prioritized racial equity in testing, making sure communities that have been hardest hit by COVID-19 have equal access.
COMMUNITY GROUPS WORK TO INCREASE COVID-19 TESTING
On Tuesdays, volunteers help up to 1,200 families at a time by setting up a drive-thru food pantry in an abandoned grocery store parking lot at 79th and Halsted streets. The Greater Auburn-Gresham Development Corporation's efforts are meeting immense and immediate needs. In addition to food support, they pass out masks and hand sanitizer and have set up a neighborhood testing location nearby.
"Everyone in our community should be tested. And so we've begun pushing that message out into hotspot areas," said Carlos Nelson, CEO of the Greater Auburn-Gresham Development Corporation.
COVID-19 is disproportionately impacting Black and Latinx communities both in Chicago and nationwide. In many places across the country, there aren't enough testing sites in minority communities.
Thirty seven major U.S. cities had a greater gap than Chicago in how well their COVID-19 testing sites met the demand of Black and Latinx communities.
That's according to a new data analysis by FiveThirtyEight, ABC News and the ABC Owned Television Stations, which estimates that testing site access is basically even across racial groups in Chicago.
In Latinx neighborhoods, the analysis estimated that testing sites were only about 4% busier than sites in majority white Chicago neighborhoods. Those in Black neighborhoods were actually a little less likely to be busy than in white neighborhoods.
The largest racial testing access gaps were found in San Antonio, Dallas, Baltimore, Philadelphia and Miami.
CITY LEADERS SAY DATA-DRIVE TASK FORCE HELPS INCREASE RACIAL EQUITY IN CHICAGO TESTING LOCATIONS
"Flexibility based on data is how we're going to stay on top of COVID, and we're going to keep pushing resources to wherever they're most needed," Dr. Allison Arwady, Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health told the I-Team.
Chicago's leaders created the Racial Equity Rapid Response Team to target communities that have been hardest hit by the virus with testing and support, saying those efforts are key to the testing equity reflected in the data analysis.
"We work very closely with our community leaders to kind of interrogate that data and think about what the specific community based hyperlocal strategies need to be to respond," Sybil Madison, deputy mayor for education and human services told the I-Team.
In Chicago, Latinx people account for 47% of COVID-19 cases, 30% of cases are Black people and white people account for 15%. Public health leaders say working to curb the virus means being intentional about finding ways to help underserved communities.
"It's also on all of us individually and collectively to make sure that we link arms and really address those issues that has caused such a dire effect to historically just so many communities," said Donna Thompson, CEO of Access Community Health Network.
Madison said, "We're not going to erase decades of disinvestment and overnight. So, we have to act in the moment and in ways that help us address what's happening right now."
City officials are planning to use the infrastructure created in response to COVID-19 to continue targeted public health efforts in the years to come.
The analysis doesn't take into account all factors that can affect testing availability, such as each site's daily capacity, which can range from dozens of tests per day to thousands and can change over time. There also is not adequate data available to account for a range of other factors, including testing sites' staffing day to day, each site's restrictions on whom is eligible to receive a test or whether patients needed insurance.
The nationwide data analysis and additional reporting for this story was contributed by a team, including Soo Rin Kim and Matthew Vann of ABC News, Laura Bronner of FiveThirtyEight and Grace Manthey of ABC Owned Television Stations. The full analysis is here and an explanation of how we did it can be found here.