1 year later, Auburn Gresham is among communities hit hardest by COVID-19 pandemic

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The first person reported to have died from COVID-19 in Illinois lived in Auburn Gresham.

A year later it is one of the city's most hard-hit communities in terms of both human loss and economic impact.

In February of 2020 a former Save-A-Lot closed its doors to the public. A couple months later it has found a new purpose as a food and PPE distribution center as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold.

"All of our work which we've done for nearly 20 years is now focused on saving lives and addressing the impact that COVID-19 has had on our community," said Carlos Nelson with the Greater Auburn Gresham Development Group.

The Greater Auburn Gresham Development Group pivoted to meet the health and financial emergency.

Now, Auburn Gresham's largest community organization provides everything from food to rental assistance.

They helped bring in a free testing site, and are now going directly to where seniors live to sign them up for vaccine appointments.

"We have them in the lobbies with their building managers, registering residents one at a time," said Joshua Rawls, with the COVID-19 Community Response Team.
One hundred and thirty two people have lost their lives in Auburn Gresham as a result of COVID-19.

Patricia Frieson, 61,was the first. Her sister, Wanda Bailey, followed shortly after.

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Six months after Illinois recorded its first COVID-19-related death, a South Side woman whose sister would also die days later, their brother hopes others can heed the warning his

"It's been very hard. Those two were cornerstones. Each. Every family member takes on some type of characteristic within the family and uh, you look for that and no one else is there to fill that void," said Anthony Frieson, the victims' brother.

"It does take a toll. It definitely does. To see how much pain the community goes through," said Aliyah Redmon, with the COVID-19 Community Response Team. "It's hard to think of. However, this meaningful work that I do, it gives me the power to change the next person's outcome."

While there is light at the end of the tunnel, the neighborhood remains one of the areas with the lowest number of people vaccinated across Chicago.

It is a trend the city is hoping to change by prioritizing it for available appointments at the United Center's mass vaccination site.

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A lock back at the COVID pandemic Illinois and a look ahead as millions become vaccinated.

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