Washington — Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Sunday that the coronavirus is “devastating” black communities in part because of the underlying health conditions that disportionately impact people of color.
Lightfoot said on “Face the Nation” that the high number of deaths from the coronavirus among African Americans is not unique to Chicago, but rather tracks closely with the death toll in large cities nationwide.
“The answer that we believe is right is because of the underlying conditions that people of color and particularly black folks suffer from, whether it’s diabetes, heart disease, upper respiratory illnesses, the kind of things that we’ve been talking about for a long time that plague black Chicago, that lead to life expectancy gaps,” Lightfoot said. “This virus attacks those underlying conditions with a vengeance.”
In Chicago, 72% of those who have died from the coronavirus are black. African Americans make up 30% of the city’s population.
“it is devastating our community,” Lightfoot said.
To confront the coronavirus crisis that has roiled the country, Lightfoot said it’s vital to look at the data, including demographic information, to better understand the deadly illness. In Chicago, the city has deployed a racial equality rapid response team made up of health care providers, public health officials and other stakeholders, she said.
“We are going all-in in a hyper-local focus to make sure that we are tapping into those neighborhoods where there’s a high death rate, where there’s a high positive test rate,” Lightfoot said. “And we are bringing people into healthcare systems and making those kind of connections that may not have otherwise existed.”
She said the city is also focused on addressing the spread of misinformation about the coronavirus to ensure residents are better informed.
While the coronavirus pandemic has effectively halted the U.S. economy as governors order residents to stay at home and the federal government urges Americans to forego working from their offices if they can, President Trump has signaled an eagerness to reopen the economy as quickly as possible.
Earlier Sunday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said there could be a rolling reopening of the economy by May, depending on several factors. Lightfoot said that for Chicago to begin a return to normalcy, any reboot would depend first on the coronavirus outbreak being controlled.
“We cannot open up the economy until we make sure that we’ve got all the health care controls in place,” she said. “That means widespread testing, contact tracing, and we’ve got to see not just a flattening of the curve, but a bending down.”
In the U.S., there have been more than 530,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, including more than 19,000 in Illinois.