94 dead in South Shore as death toll rises in Black neighborhoods 

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RESIDENTS WAIT TO be tested for COVID-19 at a temporary testing site in the parking lot of a Walgreens store in Jeffrey Plaza in South Shore. (Photo by Keith Chambers)

By Crusader Staff Report

The death toll of Blacks in Chicago who died from COVID-19 has climbed to 818 as Black neighborhoods continue to lose more residents to the disease, according to the latest data from the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office.

A total of 65 residents died of COVID-19 in the West Pullman and Roseland neighborhoods. Auburn Gresham had the third-highest COVID-19 fatalities among Black neighborhoods with 65. Chatham has 48 deaths. Bronzeville has a total of 44 COVID-19 victims and West Englewood’s death toll is at 35, the latest data show.

Testing sites popped up in Chicago’s Black neighborhoods last weekend to help curb the spread of COVID-19 cases as residents remain indoors under Governor Pritzker’s stay at home order.

In Chatham, a testing drive-thru opened in the parking lot of the Studio Movie Grill on 87th Street. In South Shore, a temporary testing site with a mobile unit operated in the parking lot of a Walgreens store in the Jeffrey Plaza.

As Chicago’s deadliest neighborhood, South Shore’s death toll jumped from 84 to 94 in one week. Four people died in the past week at Villa at Windsor Park, bringing the death toll at the nursing home to 25. At another nursing home, Symphony of South Shore, two more people died, bringing the total number of deaths there to 12. All of the victims were Black and 64 years old or older. All had underlying medical conditions.The number of Blacks dying from the disease continues to remain relatively low in Woodlawn, Ashburn, and West Garfield Park. Woodlawn and Ashburn had 14 deaths each while West Garfield Park lost 15 residents to the disease.

Although city and state leaders made strides in opening testing centers in Black neighborhoods, questions remain why these efforts came so late as cases and deaths soared in communities on the South and West Sides. Early last month, Lightfoot created a task force to help Black neighborhoods after she released a report that shows COVID-19 disproportionally affected Blacks more than any ethnic group despite making up just 29 percent of Chicago’s 2.7 million population.

Now the city’s Latino population is the hardest hit. In the predominately Latino neighborhood of Humboldt Park, 46 people have died from COVID-19.

Lightfoot has created a similar task force to address the problems in Latino neighborhoods. On May 13, she participated in a virtual town hall meeting on Facebook for Latino residents.

“Our entire city has been impacted by the COVID-19 crisis, but we haven’t experienced this crisis in the same way, with some of Chicago’s communities—especially communities of color—grappling with disproportionately high numbers of cases and even deaths,” said Mayor Lori Lightfoot.

“As part of our effort to turn these unacceptable circumstances around in our Latinx communities, we are collaborating with trusted leaders to undertake an aggressive, bilingual digital and video campaign to educate our residents and families. This town hall, in particular, will serve as a vital forum to answer important questions and get the word out on how to stay safe and protected throughout this unprecedented health crisis.”

Meanwhile, questions remain whether Chicago will partially reopen by May 29 as Illinois prepares to enter phase three of the state’s five-phase reopening plan for the state’s four regions. Chicago is in the Northeast Region.

In order to enter phase three, a region must have a positivity rate of 20 percent or less and an increase of no more than 10 percent over a 14-day period. The positivity rate is determined by using a 7-day rolling average to smooth volatility in the daily metrics, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

The Northeast region, which includes Cook County and collar counties, reported a positivity rate at 18.3 percent Monday — just under the threshold of 20 percent and a drop of 4.9 percent in the last two weeks.

A region must see stability or a decrease in hospital admissions for COVID-like illness across a 28-day period. According to state officials, all four regions have seen a dip in hospitalizations since May 1.

All four regions are also required to have the available surge capacity of at least 14 percent ICU beds, medical/surgical beds, and ventilators. As of Monday, that requirement was also being met by all four health care regions.

The Northeast region remained on the edge of the metrics, however, with 17.2 percent of medical-surgical beds available and 18 percent of ICU beds not in use. The area remained strong with ventilator availability, however, reporting 61.8 percent on hand.

Other regions reported medical/surgical bed availability in excess of 40 percent and ICU capacity above at least 30 percent, nearly double the necessary metrics.

Lightfoot has a separate opening plan for Chicago with benchmarks that may seem tougher to meet than Pritzker’s plan.

Lightfoot said Monday that while she doesn’t have “a precise timeline” for when Chicago might enter its phase three, “we’re making definite progress in all the metrics.”

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