The Crusader Newspaper Group

At least 848 Blacks in Illinois have COVID-19

At least eight Blacks out of 12 employees in Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown’s department tested positive for the coronavirus

By Erick Johnson

At least 848 Blacks in Illinois have COVID-19, the second-highest ethnic group in the state infected with the virus, according to figures released March 27 by the Illinois Department of Public Health.

The figures come as eight Blacks in Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown’s department have been diagnosed with the illness.

The 848 Black COVID-19 patients in Illinois make up 28 percent of 3,026 cases that were reported last week.

Whites were the highest group with 1,180 COVID-19 cases or 39 percent of all cases during the same time period.

The IDPH also reported that the space identifying ethnicity was left blank on 20 percent of coronavirus cases.

Nine percent of the coronavirus cases included “other” races, and Asians, had 121 cases or four percent of the 3,026 cases reported on March 27.

The IDPH did not have available figures on the number of COVID-19 deaths by race.

As of Tuesday,  Illinois had 5,994 cases reported COVID-19 cases and 146 deaths from the virus.

At least two of those deaths were from Chicago’s Auburn Gresham neighborhood on the South Side. They are Carl Redd, a retired 62-year-old HVAC repairman, and Patricia Frieson, 61, a retired nurse. She became Illinois’s first COVID-19 death.

On March 26, Frieson’s 63-year-old sister, Wanda Bailey, died of COVID-19. The family is planning a double funeral under federal guidelines for public gatherings during the pandemic.

In the Cook County Circuit Court Clerk’s office, Brown said 12 people among her 1,400 employees have tested positive for COVID-19. She said eight of them are Black.

Brown said while the affected employees were sent home, their areas were deep-cleaned, sanitized and power-washed.

“We have to be careful,” Brown said. “This thing is very serious, and we have to take it more seriously.”

For Blacks, the rising cases and death toll are a wake-up call.

When the coronavirus spread to America from China and Italy earlier this month, there were misconceptions that Blacks could not get the virus because of their genetic makeup.

However, Blacks are becoming the most vulnerable group to be infected by the virus because of the underlying health conditions that have historically afflicted people of color, including heart disease, hypertension and diabetes.

There is a growing number of COVID-19 deaths of Blacks who had no underlying health conditions.

In many U.S. cities and counties with predominantly Black populations, the number of coronavirus cases is increasing by the hundreds.

In Detroit, where 77 percent of the 672,681 population is the nation’s highest Black percentage more than any other city, the COVID-19 cases and deaths are growing dramatically. The city’s health department on March 31, reported 2,086 cases of the virus in the city and 73 deaths. The numbers are up from 1,804 cases and 50 deaths the day prior.

On March 24, Marlowe Stoudamire, 43, a tireless advocate for Detroit, died from the coronavirus in the city he loved. Reportedly, Stoudemire had no underlying conditions.

In Philadelphia, Health Commissioner Thomas Farley in The Philadelphia Tribune, reported that Blacks make up 46 percent of its 528 confirmed coronavirus cases. Blacks make up nearly 40 percent of the Philadelphia’s 1.6 million population according to the latest U.S. Census.

In predominantly Black New Orleans, 101 people have died among the city’s 1,834 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University and School of Medicine’s online Coronavirus Resource Center.

Once predicted as the next epicenter of the pandemic, new data released by the Louisiana Department of Public Health suggest that the virus is slowing down in the Big Easy.

In the last two days, the number of known new cases in  New Orleans and Jefferson parishes rose by 276. That is less than half of the increase of 587 cases seen in the two days prior.

Meanwhile, New Orleans is among the hardest hit U.S. cities as its bars and restaurants remain closed during the pandemic. On March 28, Essence postponed its ultra-popular Music Festival that draws tens of thousands to the city the first week in July.

In Memphis’ predominantly Black Shelby County, the county’s health department has reported 428 cases.

On March 3, Tim Russell, a pastor at Second Presbyterian Church in Memphis, died of COVID-19.

A Pennsylvania native and graduate of Geneva College, Russell received his Master of Divinity degree from Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary, according to the Daily Memphian.

He once served as Geneva College’s financial aid director, college chaplain and church relations director, the newspaper reported.

Russell previously served as the Second Presbyterian’s assistant pastor of middle adults, and was president of the Memphis Center for Urban Theological Studies and spent 2009 to 2012 as the headmaster of Westminster Academy—a classical Christian school in East Memphis.

The Daily Memphian reported Russell served as the head of Lexington Christian Academy—a college preparatory school in the Boston area.

In Albany, Georgia, where nearly 75 percent of its 71,646 residents are Black, the number of COVID-19 cases spiked to 357. Twenty-one Blacks died in Dougherty County following a funeral where 200 people of color paid their respects to a Black janitor on February 29.

Many health departments don’t have demographics on COVID-19 cases readily available, but the Crusader has verified that at least 40 Blacks across the country have died from COVID-19. Their profiles are listed on the Crusader’s website as part of an ongoing tribute to their lives and impact in their communities.

While many are seniors above 65 years of age, some were younger when they died of the COVID-19 virus.

The youngest, Bassey Offiong, was just 25 when he died of the virus March 28. He was a senior majoring in chemical engineering at Western Michigan University. He died just weeks before he was set to graduate. He had no known prior health issues, according to Detroit’s WXYZ-TV.

Reports say Offiong had been refused tests many times while living off-campus in the Kalamazoo area, despite having the COVID-19 symptoms, including shortness of breath, fatigue and a fever, his sister told the Detroit News.

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