CHICAGO (WLS) -- Tucked away behind UIC's Mile Square Health Center is a COVID-19 testing site. Drive in or walk up, it's for all of UIC staff, students and patients, including the 41,000 people the center serves in minority neighborhood clinics throughout the city.
"Mile Square sits in some of the hot spots in the City of Chicago by design, we want to be where our patients need us the most like Englewood, Back of Yards," said Henry Taylor, CEO of UIC Mile Square Health Center.
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They are the same neighborhoods where the rates of chronic conditions like diabetes or high blood pressure are high, which is why the alarming statistics about the high rate of coronavirus deaths among African-Americans is not surprising to Mile Square health officials.
"The same life expectancy gap that we see in our zip codes, knowing our zip codes more important than genetic codes plays out as the COVID pandemic plays out," said Dr. Karriem Watson from UIC.
Mile Square is hoping some community outreach to their patients, who are majority African American, will help reduce the COVID-19 cases and deaths.
Health care workers are calling patients to make sure they understand and are able to practice social distancing.
"We take it for granted that everyone know what social distancing is and we take it for granted there are barriers that exist within a home that are preventing barriers," Watson said.
If there are barriers, Mile Square will come up with a plan to help. It is also teaming up with minority business owners to provide meals to its patients, so people don't have to go to the grocery store and it's encouraging patients with symptoms to visit their west side test site
Ideally, when more tests become available, Mile Square would like to open their test site for people outside of the UIC health system, for now the center is taking new patients at all of the neighborhood clinics.