Black people make up only 30 percent of Chicago residents say the most recent numbers from the United States Census Bureau, but account for more than 52 percent of COVID-19 cases and 70 percent of deaths, the Chicago COVID-19 statistics site confirmed. To address this health crisis, the city’s mayor, Lori Lightfoot, announced the launch of a new health campaign that will focus on Black and Brown communities, in a press conference on April 6, reports Chicago’s WGN.

Flanked by Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Allison Arwady, Mayor Lightfoot said that Latinx people are also very likely to be bearing the brunt of the coronavirus. “The data also indicates there’s likely significant underreporting in our Latinx community, here in Chicago. And overall, some of our more culturally tight knit communities may be experiencing a higher incidence of the virus.”  

Solemnly, Lightfoot went on to say, “This is a call to action moment for all of us. When we talk about equity and inclusion, they’re not just nice notions, they’re an imperative that we must embrace as a city.”

When Arwady spoke, made it clear that the statistics around COVID-19 were grim and unequal, confirming that before the pandemic, White Chicagoans lived 8.8 years longer than Black residents, with the biggest driver of that disparity being chronic diseases in the Black community, such as cardiovascular, lung, smoking-related illnesses and diabetes. Throw in coronavirus, and the battle sounds less about pre-existing health conditions than it does about ongoing systemic issues. 

“Today is more about geography, demographics and that means in Chicago, it’s also a story about inequality,” Arwady said, while explaining that without essential resources already in place for some Chicagoans, such as access to healthcare, then the disparities will continue. 

With the new health taskforce, Lightfoot said she is focused on collecting scientific data around COVID-19 cases and using this as an opportunity to ramp up the fight against poverty and health disparities. To do nothing, Lightfoot said, is “unacceptable.”