The number of Black Chicago COVID-19 victims nearly tripled in December during the holiday surge, accounting for the second-highest death rate in the city behind whites, according to the latest data from the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office.
The surge in COVID-19 continues to surge in the city’s Black zip codes as frigid temperatures force families to remain indoors.
The Austin community (60644) as of Tuesday, January 4, had the highest positivity rate in the city with 35.1 percent. Humboldt Park’s positivity rate was 30.8 percent, according to data from the city’s COVID-19 dashboard. All of the city’s Black zip codes have positivity rates in the 20s, pushing Chicago’s positivity rate to 23.3 percent.
Health officials attribute the high positivity rate to more home test kits that report new infections.
A total of 326 people died from COVID-19 last month in Chicago, compared to 137 deaths in November, health data show. Among ethnic groups, 113 of the victims were Black, 151 were white, 48 were Latino, nine were Asian, and five were other or unknown.
The 113 Black deaths in Chicago are nearly triple the 40 deaths that occurred in November.
Overall, in Cook County, there were 716 COVID-19 deaths in December, compared to 259 in the previous month.
The December casualties were higher than January 2021, when the holiday surge from 2020 led to a total of 275 deaths in Chicago. About 133 Blacks in the city that month died from the disease, the highest death rate among Chicago’s three ethnic groups.
Last month’s COVID-19 casualties are lower than a year ago, when a record 685 Chicagoans died from the disease, including 155 Blacks, 150 Latinos and 341 whites.
In South Shore, Bryn Mawr Community Church, one of the few predominately Black churches that held in-person worship services after reopening in July with strict COVID-19 protocols, announced last Sunday, January 2, that it would return to online services after two people tested positive for COVID-19. As of January 4, South Shore had a positivity rate of 28.2 percent, and two people died in the last week, pushing the neighborhood’s COVID-19 death toll to 187.
Meanwhile, businesses on the South and West sides are complying with the city’s new proof of vaccination mandate that went into effect on Monday, January 3. Restaurants, bars, gyms and movie theaters, and entertainment centers now require patrons to show their vaccination cards. At the historic Daley’s restaurant in Woodlawn, a waitress told the Crusader that many patrons were turned away on Monday and Tuesday because they didn’t have their vaccination cards. Many patrons who were unable to dine in eventually ordered food from the restaurant’s takeout desk.
On the West Side, MacArthur’s Restaurant closed its in-room dining service and switched to offering take-out services only. A spokesperson said restaurant workers were reluctant to confront patrons who didn’t want to follow the city’s proof of vaccination mandate.
On Tuesday, (Jan. 4) afternoon, patrons at the LA Fitness gym in Bronzeville had to show their vaccination cards before staff members scanned their membership cards. Before the new mandate, patrons scanned their own membership cards before using the facility.
At Mariano’s supermarket less than a mile away, the hot foods buffet bar was shut down, but the salad bar remained open during a visit by a Crusader reporter Tuesday afternoon.
Restaurants and businesses could face a costly fine for not properly posting or enforcing the new vaccine-only policy or keeping a log of vaccinated employees.
On Tuesday, Illinois public health officials reported 24,423 new COVID-19 cases and 79 related deaths. The seven-day statewide test positivity rate is 17.6 percent.
Governor JB Pritzker urged Illinois hospital leaders to delay elective surgeries and other non-emergency procedures to keep more beds open for another expected wave of COVID-19 patients as the state weathers its largest case surge of the pandemic. Illinois Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said about 90 percent of the new hospital admissions are unvaccinated residents.
Other major cities across the country are also experiencing high positivity rates as the Omicron variant spreads throughout the nation.
President Joe Biden addressed the nation during a televised speech Tuesday night, January 4, as the country averaged 500,000 new infections per day.
Biden once again urged Americans to get vaccinated and boosted, and to wear masks in public to avoid spreading and catching the coronavirus.
“We have the tools to protect people from severe illness due to Omicron if people choose to use the tools,’’ Biden said. “There’s a lot of reason to be hopeful in (2022), but for God’s sake, please take advantage of what’s available.’’
The U.S. topped a one million mark in new coronavirus cases for the first time Monday, (Jan. 3) but that included a holiday weekend backlog of data.
On Tuesday, January 4, about 859,245 new cases had been reported.