State Health Officials Urge Testing Amid Rise in COVID-19 Infections in Latino Communities

New statewide totals: 68,232 cases, 2,974 deaths

More than 360,000 people have been tested for COVID-19 in Illinois, including 26,517 who identify as Hispanic, according to officials.

Among those Hispanic residents, nearly 16,000 tested positive for the virus, a positivity rate of 60% — three times higher than the state’s average, according to Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike.

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“COVID-19 has had a profound impact in Latino communities,” said Dr. Marina Del Rios, director of social emergency medicine at UI Health. “Latinos represent more than 40% of new cases reported in the state of Illinois over the last week and our numbers are continuing to grow. I know I have been personally impacted, losing friends and family members of friends.”

The Latino population has the highest proportion of positive cases based on data collected by IDPH. “We know some cases that don’t have (racial or ethnic demographic) information, so the numbers are potentially higher,” Ezike said Wednesday afternoon.

“Many vulnerable populations are being affected by this pandemic and none more than the Latinx population,” she said.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker said the data shines a “concerning spotlight” on which residents are most likely to get sick from COVID-19.

“Because of decades of disparities in health care access and delivery, we’ve seen the worst affects of this virus fall disproportionately on the backs of communities of color in our state, that’s especially true in black, Native American and Latinx communities,” he said.

Earlier on Wednesday, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced that Latino Chicagoans now account for 37% of the city’s coronavirus cases and 25% of deaths linked to the virus.

Latino Chicagoans make up approximately 29% of the city’s population.

“These numbers are quite profound,” Lightfoot said. “We have to step up.”

During their daily press briefing on COVID-19, officials on Wednesday afternoon reminded residents that anyone can get tested for the virus, regardless of their citizenship status, ability to pay or whether or not they have health insurance. “As Latinx communities across Illinois are being hit hard by this virus, I urge trusted community leaders to help get the word out about the availability of COVID-19 testing,” Ezike said.

There are more than 200 public testing sites in Illinois, of which 66, or about one third, are located in communities with a significant Latino population. And each of the state’s seven drive-thru testing sites offer Spanish translation services, according to officials.

While many Latino residents work in essential areas of the economy and can’t do their jobs from home, there are precautions they can take to prevent the spread of the virus, Del Rios said.

“Simple hygiene measures are our first line of defense. Wearing a mask and keeping a 6-foot distance while at work. Wash your hands frequently. Remove your clothes and shower immediately upon returning home,” she said. “These measures will reduce the risk of transmission of the virus among your coworkers and your family. Having a baseline state of good health is your best chance to protect yourself from COVDI-19.”

People with chronic conditions, like diabetes and hypertension, should continue to work with their doctors to manage those conditions, she added. “Hospitals and doctors’ offices are still open for business.”

If someone does get sick, they should stay home, Del Rios said.

“We recognize for many of us, taking a day off of work can have significant financial repercussions. However, there are larger repercussion for delaying medical attention when you are sick,” she said.

“If you have any symptoms suggestive of COVID-19, take time off from work. Seek medical attention immediately for your own safety and for that of your coworkers and family.”

Residents seeking more information about COVID-19 in Spanish can text “COVIDESP” to 312-500-3836 to receive daily text messages about the virus.

Contact Kristen Thometz: @kristenthometz (773) 509-5452  [email protected]

Coronavirus Prevention Tips and Resources

Officials advise taking preventive measures to slow the spread of the virus, including: 

—Washing your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water
—Using hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol
—Sneezing or coughing into a tissue and then disposing of the tissue
—Limiting contact with people regardless of how you feel
—Staying home when you are sick

Symptoms of COVID-19 include, but are not limited to:

—New onset of fever, cough, shortness of breath
—Congestion in the nasal sinuses or lungs
—Sore throat, body aches or unusual fatigue

If you think you have COVID-19:

Call you doctor before showing up at their office. If you have a medical emergency and need to call 911, tell the operator that you think you have COVID-19. If possible, wear a mask before medical help arrives or presenting at a doctor’s office. More advice for those who think they have COVID-19.

Additional resources:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Illinois’ COVID-19 website
Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) website
—IDPH COVID-19 hotline: 800-889-3931
—IPDH COVID-19 email link
City of Chicago COVID-19 website
—City of Chicago COVID-19 hotline: 312-746-4835
—City of Chicago COVID-19 email link

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