CHICAGO (CBS) -- As COVID-19 continues to disproportionately affect communities of color, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced an emergency effort to target neighborhoods on the city's south and west sides.
Called the Racial Equity Rapid Response Team (RERRT) the program is set up to help those who need COVID-19 testing, care and other items connected to the spread of the disease. The city will partner with several community organizations to get information from residents and to reach out to provide necessary assistance.
The efforts are being focused on the Austin, Auburn Gresham and South Shore neighborhood -- some of the communities that CBS 2 Investigators first reported were the hardest hit by coronavirus deaths.
"In response to the shockingly disproportionate impact this disease has had on our communities, RERRT is working aggressively and in close collaboration with local leaders and partners to mount a public health response that addresses the specific and contextualized needs of our residents and families," Lightfoot said. "This crisis has also doubled-down our longer mission to fight poverty, end racial inequality, and ensure every Chicagoan has access to a bright future we all deserve."
There are several facets of the RERRT. The city's Emergency Operations Center will put together coordination strategies to better connect with community residents. There will be what's called an "Education/Communications Working Group that will tailor its message to address multi-generational households. Also part of RERRT a Provider's Working Group that will help those with underlying conditions and educate them about their heightened risk of COVID-19.
Around 60,000 faces masks will be distributed to those areas to help offer protection against possible COVID-19 exposure.
"COVID-19 has brought the economic and health disparities in our cities into sharp focus. Structural racism, systemic inequities, and poor public policy have all played a role in creating this disastrous outcome," said Anton Seals of South Shore Works. "It will require attention to all these factors coupled with an appreciation for the strengths and culture of black communities in our to reverse this trend."
The University of Chicago Medicine system will also work with the RERRT group to expanded testing in Hyde Park and at the UChicago Medicine Ingalls Memorial in Harvey. The facilities can offer up to 1,000 COVID-19 tests per day, per location. The testing will be offered free of charge. Both locations will test people by appointment.
The mayor is also hosting tele-town hall events to provide information and answer questions about resources available to those who may be affected. The first one is Thursday, April 23: from 4:30-6 p.m. with South Shore Works. And the second one is set for Saturday April 25 from 10:30am-12:00 p.m with Austin Coming Together. The town halls will also be streamed through the city's social media platforms.
The mayor opened her remarks by confirming another COVID-19 death of a city worker. The person worked in the streets and sanitation department and "served the city for 27 years." Lightfoot would not release the name of the person.
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