Mayor Lightfoot Announces Latest Efforts To Help Minorities During COVID-19 Pandemic

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot
Photo credit WBBM Newsradio/Craig Dellimore
By WBBM Newsradio 780 AM & 105.9 FM

CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- Mayor Lightfoot provided an update Monday afternoon on the latest efforts by the Racial Equity Rapid Response Team to mitigate the racialized outcomes present in the COVID-19 crisis.

"Today we are announcing our latest, but far from our last steps in addressing the unacceptable, disproportionate impact that COVID-19 has had in our city's African American and Latinx communities. Our immediate efforts are focusing on Austin, Auburn-Gresham, and South Shore - communities chosen because they are experiencing some of the worst impacts of this crisis and showed the clearest need for immediate action," Lightfoot said.

The Racial Equity Rapid Response Team has organized a steering committee that includes the Mayor's Office, the Department of Public Health, and West Side United, along with Rush University Medical Center and University of Chicago Medicine - leading healthcare organizations on the city's South and West side, University of Chicago's department of public health and several working groups "all focused around four core pillars: education, prevention, testing and treatment, and support services."

"Through this framework, we have worked to breakdown the digital divide and ensure our residents are receiving critical and contextualized information. Outreach workers are placing literally tens of thousands of door hangers on homes in targeted zip codes that have the highest concentrations of COVID-19 cases. In partnership with community leaders, we have sharpened our message and guidance and are delivering informational flyers and postcards tailored to essential workers, residents over 60, and those with underlying conditions, and we have supported distribution of masks in each of these communities," Lightfoot said.

"In addition to our communications on social media, we have increased our outreach to residents through targeted and nuance radio and television. Let me assure you that this is not just a one and done project. The team has become integrated into Chicago's emergency operations center to help coordinate communications and resources, and create a feedback loop for information from the field to be addressed on a systematic basis."

These measures, Lightfoot said, specifically allow the city to quickly identify gaps and solve problems - and all of this has happened in the last week. 

"In developing our efforts, we didn't start from scratch or reinvent the wheel. We didn't have to. The team...they are working and learning side by side with our partners from West Side United, who know how to build dynamic partnerships between communities and healthcare systems from their own work in addressing health inequalities and life expectancy gaps in 10 of our West Side communities. They are sharing their insights and relationships as we build this work across the South and West sides of Chicago in communities that are experiencing a different reality when it comes to COVID-19," Lightfoot said.

She said one hugely important part of this effort is community-based leadership. Mayor Lightfoot thanked the organizations that are teaming up with the Racial Equity Rapid Response Team, as well as the aldermen who have been engaged in the efforts.

"Moving forward this week and next, we will be engaging with residents via three tele-Town Halls customized to share relevant information and have frank discussions about what is needed to protect residents and flatten the curve in these communities, just as we have done overall in the City of Chicago. We will be focusing on developing solutions to food insecurities. For example, the emergency operations center teams are working right now on how to address needed food solutions on the South Side, because of what we learned from Carl Nelson's work on the ground. In Auburn-Gresham, food insecurity has been flagged as a significant community need and that local need has been elevated in a way that we can address it systematically, as part of our emergency response to COVID-19," Lightfoot said.

Before providing the update, the Mayor announced the death of another city employee to COVID-19 - the employee worked for the Department of Streets and Sanitation. 

"This individual was a dedicated Chicagoan who served our city for 27 years," Lightfoot said. 

The identity of the employee was not given out as requested by the family.