Over 25% of Chicago’s COVID-19 mortality victims have been members of the Latino community. Photo by Margan Zajdowicz, FreeImages

While some states are opening up and returning to business as usual, Chicago’s mayor Lori Lightfoot is taking things slower than most while tackling the high number of coronavirus cases and deaths impacting the city’s Latino neighborhoods. 

Chicago is opening public transit, child care centers, hotels, and other public spaces as part of its third phase of reopenings this week. But predominantly Latino neighborhoods are still trying to bounce back from an alarming spike in coronavirus cases. 

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot says the number of Latinos affected by coronavirus is “breathtaking.”  Photo: MacLean Center, Lori Lightfoot at MacLean Center (02), CC BY 3.0

Latino rights advocates have said that a lack of COVID-19 information in Spanish is contributing to the high infection and death rates. “A lot of Latinos work in restaurants and in the food industry,” Eddy Borrayo, president of the Chicago mental health nonprofit Rincon Family Services, told the Chicago Sun-Times. “We know the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) is promoting health guidelines, but a lot of that information isn’t reaching our community. It’s up to us to make it happen, ” he said.

Latino communities like Little Village and Humboldt Park have over 4,000 positive Covid-19 recorded cases combined as of June 4. In response to these high numbers,  Lightfoot has developed the Illinois Latino Covid-19 Initiative, an outreach program specifically for Latinos, made up of public health experts and elected officials. 

“We have reached another critical moment for our city, confronting the impact of COVID-19 on Chicago’s Latinx community,” Lightfoot said during a May 6 press conference. “With increasing testing, improved reporting, and the continued spread of this terrible virus, we are seeing a surge in cases amongst our Latinx residents. And this demands we dig down deeper and work harder to confront this reality.”

Families, individuals, and businesses are feeling the pain caused by coronavirus. “We’re struggling,” Patty Navarro, manager of a Little Village bridal shop, told CNN, “This pushes you to do things that you never did before. It’s not easy.” 

Although leadership like Lightfoot’s makes a profound difference in our communities, there’s still more work to be done. On June 4, the Illinois Latino COVID-19 Initiative called on state government, philanthropy, and all other institutions to be more proactive about protecting our communities.

With reporting from Lisann Ramos.