For many, the Coronavirus has drastically changed our daily lives. Individuals who would usually be out and about are now staying home and engaging in social distancing. The virus has impacted lives on a global level. One of the most startling facts about this virus, however, is the impact that it is having on the African-American community.
On April 7, 2020, the Joint Caucus-black elected officials representing the state, county, and the city as well as doctors conducted a virtual town hall to not only address these disparities but also discuss things that we can do as a community to decrease the impact of Coronavirus on our communities.
Dr. Kiran Joshi, Co-Director of Cook County Department of Public Health, discussed the symptoms of COVID-19, the process of getting help, and the staggering statistics of the impact of Coronavirus on African-Americans: “If you get symptoms that are like the flu and you are generally otherwise healthy, you can stay home and isolate yourself and try to stay away from everyone else. If you are someone who develops those symptoms and have an underlying condition, reach out to your primary care doctor. If your symptoms start to get worse, we strongly recommend that before you go anywhere, call the facility first. We’re seeing a considerably higher rate of COVID illnesses and deaths among African-American residents. The rate is more than three times the death as white folks, so we are working to address those disparities.” If you want to learn more about this data, you can check out the website: www.cookcountypublichealth.org.
Dr. Ezke from the Center for Minority Health also discussed this risk. “Heart disease, hypertension, obesity, kidney disease, liver disease, the conditions that are already too prevalent in our communities is the reason why when you overlay COVID, we see these horrific statistics. African-Americans make up 42.9 percent of the deaths, even though the cases are about 24%. We know that there is not a vaccine or a licensed treatment. The plan of attack is to try to stay away from the enemy. This is why the stay at home order is so important. We do believe that we have started to flatten the curve through this. We do think we have started to do that by having the stay at home order. We know how critically the testing is, and we are doing testing at each of our three-state labs to ramp up the production of tests. As we get those, we will be pushing those out into our most vulnerable populations.” Dr. Ezke also mentioned that their center is creating systems to communicate updates through texting.
Candace Moore, Chief Equity Officer from the City of Chicago, mentioned a few things that are going on at the city level. “We, as a city, are owning the responsibility of sharing this information with the public. So much of what we are seeing is a manifestation of things that many of us have seen for a very long time. I think there are things that we can do right now to address structural issues. We are setting up a racial equity response team to take our public health approach to get down to a hyper-local level to share information and access to resources, but also learn what folks need within the community.” She mentioned that communication to address issues such as what social distancing means in a multigenerational home and working with local aldermen to ensure that community needs are being addressed are steps that the city is taking to communicate with the community through sharing that information online and on the radio.
Dr. Suzette McKinney from The Illinois Medical Center discussed the local response of addressing COVID-19 through the use of alternate care facilities. “McCormick Place, Metro South Hospital, and Westlake are sites designed to provide some relief as a step down from inpatient care to release the burden on the hospitals.”
The Illinois Department of Human Services reports that they want to support as many people as possible during this time. Emergency SNAP is now available, which increases the monthly allotment to the maximum beginning April 8 and no later than April 20, 2020, for April and May. Additional allotments will be issued to new SNAP households through April and May. The income level was raised to 200% to allow more Americans to acquire these resources. Mobile distribution for food distributions have been established. To apply, call, or go online to apply for services at 833-2FINDHELP.
DHS has also set up a childcare assistance program for essential workers. Childcare centers and homes can apply for an Emergency Childcare Permit issued by DHS. Childcare centers that remain closed can submit an attendance exemption form. If the center certifies that it will continue to pay employees, then payments will continue for March and April.
All current housing service providers were given additional funding for emergency and transitional housing and supportive housing. This provision is going through All Chicago for distribution. All information on resources is included on their website: www.dhs.illinois.gov/helpishere.
Commissioner Dennis Deer mentioned that if you have not had a mental health problem, Coronavirus can significantly impact your mental health, which causes stress and distress. It is also important to look at some of the issues that we had before the Coronavirus and consider talking to a clinician for additional support.
Small Business Support
Melinda Kelly from the Small Business Association spoke about the Payment Protection Program, a loan that converts into a grant if you keep your business open. “With social distancing, it gives us a chance to get staff engaged and working for your business; you can pay them and get free help for eight weeks.” You must apply through your bank for the loan, but you can call SBA for additional information at 773.994.5006.
Cook County Assessor-Fritz Kange also discussed property tax information. “The property tax exemption deadline is April 11. Seniors had their certification automatically renewed. Make sure if you turned 65 this year, you do freezes online. We encourage landlords to work with tenants-they can have mortgage payments postponed up to twelve months. Forbearance or reduced rent can reduce assessments as well as long as they have certification from their tenants.”
For questions or to obtain additional information on future virtual town halls, email firstname.lastname@example.org.