By Keith Chambers
Auburn Gresham, Chatham and West Pullman continue to have the highest number of COVID-19 cases among Chicago’s Black neighborhoods, according to data provided by the Illinois Department of Public Health.
Those same neighborhoods have the highest number of COVID-19 deaths behind South Shore, according to the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office.
The news comes as concern grows that Chicago’s Black neighborhoods will be left behind as Governor J.B. Pritzker talks about reopening the state. Illinois’ economy has been closed since March 14 under Pritzker’s stay-at-home executive order during the coronavirus pandemic.
To date, 700 residents of Auburn Gresham have been infected with the coronavirus and 41 have died. In West Pullman and Roseland, 624 residents have been infected and 45 have died from COVID-19. In Chatham and Greater Grand Crossing, 581 residents have been infected and 36 people have died from the disease.
In the Austin neighborhood on Chicago’s West Side, 30 people have died and 599 residents have been infected with the coronavirus, health data show.
The largest number of COVID-19 cases is in North and South Lawndale on the West Side, where a total of 1,285 residents in both neighborhoods have been infected and 48 have died. North Lawndale is nearly 90 percent Black. South Lawndale is predominately Latino. Both share the zip code 60629.
Overall in Chicago, 521 Blacks have died from COVID-19. Statewide, 911 Blacks have died from the disease.
As of May 4, some 12,438 Blacks in Illinois have had COVID-19 since the outbreak began in March. Blacks at one point had the highest number of deaths statewide. Now, Blacks are behind whites and Latinos in the state’s COVID-19 death toll.
Pritzker continues to boost testing to help stop the spread of the virus. The neighborhoods that have the highest number of coronavirus tests are West Lawn, Auburn Gresham, Chatham, West Pullman, Avalon Park and South Chicago.
Despite those numbers (see chart), there is concern that there are not enough accessible testing sites in Chicago’s Black neighborhoods where half of the city’s infections have occurred.
Last week, State Senator Jacqueline Collins (D-Chicago) renewed her call for the state to create a testing site easily accessible to the residents of Auburn Gresham. She said the neighborhood has one of the highest infection rates of COVID-19 in the state. She also reminded state leaders that Auburn Gresham was the home of the first known woman in Illinois to lose her life to the deadly pandemic.
“This pandemic has made clear that the residents in Auburn Gresham are more vulnerable due to lack of fresh food access and health care and suffer disproportionally with the underlying chronic conditions of asthma, hypertension, diabetes, cancer and kidney failure,” Collins said. “Patricia Frieson, the first woman in Illinois to lose her life to COVID-19, was a unique and beloved person who nonetheless was far from the only one in these dire straits.”
Collins said many of the residents of Auburn Gresham are the essential workers who cannot afford to shelter-in-place because they are the bus drivers, store clerks, janitors and nursing home employees.
“Governor Pritzker has made admirable strides in increasing the state’s testing capacity but until we have a comprehensive plan of testing, tracing and treatment, there’s no way to mitigate the damage being done in the community,” Collins said.
Auburn Gresham is home to a large population of senior citizens who live in a number of senior buildings dotting the community.
“In Auburn Gresham, a neighborhood where few indeed are privileged with work that allows them to telecommute, these tests are needed to let essential workers know when they need to self-isolate and protect their fellow members of the community from the virus.”
As one of Chicago’s Black newspapers with a citywide distribution, our mission is to provide readers with factual news and in-depth coverage of its impact in the Black community. This story is made possible by the Chicago COVID-19 Journalism Fund, which is a grant from the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.
The story was first published in the Chicago Crusader Newspaper on May 9, 2020.