The disproportionate number of African-Americans dying from coronavirus has caught the attention of Chicago-area leaders who are working to address the disparity.
The Cook County Black Chamber of Commerce was scheduled to hold a virtual news conference Wednesday to announce the launch of the "COVID-19 African American Relief Fund," the chamber said in a statement.
The organization noted Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot's revelation on Monday that 72% of the city’s coronavirus deaths have been African-Americans even though they only comprise about 30% of the population.
"It is breathtaking," Lightfoot said in a news conference on the issue Monday. "When I first saw these numbers, I had a hard time thinking about anything else because I knew this was going to land like a bomb."
The Cook County Black Chamber of Commerce said the fund will include several initiatives: educational mailers, financial assistance for medical care, setting up testing locations, grocery delivers to seniors and homes with children, masks and respirators for hospitals in African American communities, emergency housing, home visits from medical providers, post-recovery care and more.
"When you strip communities of all hope and opportunities, ill health, crime, poverty and unemployment will always escalate. It's a sad state that we, the residents of the forgotten African American communities are living with daily," Cook County Black Chamber of Commerce founder Siri Hibbler said in a statement. "We are creating the COVID-19 African American Fund to ensure that financial assistance and more is given directly to African American residents."
The disproportionate impact of the coronavirus on black Chicagoans was the focus of an online town hall meeting Tuesday involving many lawmakers, including Rep. Robin Kelly and state Rep. Sonya Harper.
The disparity is blamed on several factors.
"COVID-19 is the perfect storm for our black and brown communities, which are mostly low-income due to lack of access to testing," Dr. Uche Blackstock said in a "Nightly News" interview. "Many of them still working on the frontlines as essential workers or service workers."
The Cook County Black Chamber of Commerce planned to release more information on the new fund during a virtual news conference that can be joined here at 12 p.m. Wednesday.