South suburban leaders unite in message against coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic
South suburban leaders unite in message against coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. Stay Home! COVID-19 disproportionately hitting South Suburbs, taking black lives due to unacceptable health disparities
South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association (SSMMA) and Southland Regional Black Mayoral Caucus (SRBMC) officials join other Chicagoland leaders to express grave concern about healthcare disparities that leave African Americans and Latinx dying from coronavirus at a higher rate in Chicago and the south suburbs. This was after U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams gave America a dire warning on Monday: The country was about to enter its worst week yet of the coronavirus pandemic and it was becoming increasingly clear that based on new data, COVID-19 will have a starker impact on one group in particular: black people.
“Yes, there are a higher percentage of blacks with COVID-19 who have succumbed to death,” said Robbins Mayor Tyrone Ward, who is also SSMMA’s president. “We are fully aware that blacks possess more underlying conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, heart concerns and asthma. Couple that with the fact that a large number of blacks work in service positions like bus driving, maintenance, store service, or delivery, leaving them vulnerable to exposure.”
Southland officials add that there is also disproportionate access to COVID-19 testing, information and healthcare, citing the recent closures of MetroSouth Medical Center in Blue Island, St. James Hospital in Chicago Heights and Oak Forest Hospital in Oak Forest.
“The Southland has been without a Level I Trauma Center for many years, which has made it difficult for our communities to receive emergency medical care,” SRBMC president and Hazel Crest Mayor Vernard Alsberry, Jr. said. “Now with this pandemic upon us, we have been the last to have open testing sites for our citizens over 60 years of age.”
“We need to take this seriously as our residents are at greater risk,” added Kristi DeLaurentiis, executive director of SSMMA. “Right now, people have to follow the stay-at-home edict issued by Governor Pritzker. It may save their lives and the lives of family, friends, and others within the community.”
WBEZ reports that while black residents make up 23 percent of Cook County’s population, they account for 58 percent of the deaths, with half of the deceased living in Chicago. USA Today reports that in Illinois, there were 13,549 coronavirus cases Tuesday and 380 deaths. Of the confirmed cases, 28.4% were black, 27.1% white, 10% Hispanic, 3.3% Asian and 25.7% were unknown. Of the deaths, 42.9% were black, 36.1% white, 8.4% Hispanic, 6.8% unknown and 3.7% Asian. About 15% of the state’s population is black, while whites make up 77% of the state’s population.
“This virus has illuminated the need for more of an investment in our communities, better healthcare implementation, jobs, and preventive dollars spent on public service announcements to help deter people from ignoring symptoms,” Mayor Ward said.
Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle commends and joins the “call to action” by the SSMMA and SRBMC organizations to help reduce the number of rising cases of COVID-19 in Southland communities.
“My administration has initiated a set of aggressive actions, programs, and informational news briefs to assist communities in the Southland and Cook County hard hit by the pandemic,” President Preckwinkle stated. “Please refer to the links below and sign up for our COVID-19 alerts by texting “alertcook” to 888-777 to stay updated on breaking news and resources.”
Links provided by Cook County include:
To help paint a better picture and reduce disparities, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is collecting racial data provided by states, but some of that data is incomplete and some has not been submitted.
The South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association is a regional municipal association, or Council of Government (COG), serves 45 municipalities and nearly 750,000 in southern Cook and eastern Will Counties. SSMMA members work cooperatively on economic development, land use, transportation, planning, infrastructure, public policy, community development and housing issues.