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An Expert Weighs In On The Disparities That Have Left Chicago's African-American Community More Vulnerable To COVID-19

CHICAGO (CBS) -- As of Monday, Illinois had confirmed 12,262 total cases of the novel coronavirus in 73 counties, including 307 deaths.

But one number stood out in particular on Monday – 70 percent of those who have died of COVID-19 have been African-American.

CBS 2's Jermont Terry reported Monday night on why the virus is hitting the African-American community hard.

Roseland Community Hospital where folks lined up for drive-through testing of COVID-19 recently. The surrounding Roseland community is one area where the number of cases is skyrocketing – and blacks are catching the virus and dying at higher numbers across the city.

"There's a saying - when the community catches a cold, in the African-American community, we catch the flu or pneumonia," said Dr. Kwame Foucher, a health insurance medical doctor. "Things just affect our community much greater than other community."

COVID-19 is spreading mostly in South and West Side black neighborhoods. A total of 98 people have died from the virus in Chicago, and 72 percent of them have been black residents – despite Chicago's population being only 30 percent black.

The virus took four lives of those close to South Side pastor the Rev. Dr. Marshall Elijah Hatch Sr. He appeared Monday at a news conference with Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady.

"That comes to our community in such a way that magnifies the already existing disparities in health care," Hatch said.

Foucher added, "So in these communities, the health insurance isn't adequate or the co-pay is very high."

He said results in many blacks with preexisting health conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure never see a doctor until they are seriously ill.

"Once it hit in our community, it spread much faster than any other community," Foucher said.

He added that living conditions in many Chicago African-American communities make social distancing impossible.
"You tell people to stay in their houses, don't go outside - that hits them a lot harder than someone with a lot more space and comfort in their homes," Foucher said.

The disparities in health care will not change overnight, but experts believe they can combat COVID-19 – especially if young black adults understand no one is immune.

"Young people need to be well advised this serious and can affect them," Foucher said. "There are young people on ventilators right now."

Foucher added that while drive-through testing sites are useful, they still place limitations on many in the community because not everyone has a vehicle.

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