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African Americans comprise more than 70% of COVID-19 deaths in Chicago, officials say

More than half of the people in Chicago who have contracted COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus, and over 70% of those who have died are African Americans, health officials and Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Monday. African Americans make up 30% of the city's population, according to the city's data.

According to data shared by the city on Sunday, 98 people have died from COVID-19 in Chicago. Of those 98 deaths, 67 were African American.

"Fifty-two percent of our cases have been in black Chicagoans, and, most strikingly, 72% of our deaths here in Chicago," Chicago Public Health Department Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady, said Monday.

In addition, there has been significant under reporting within the Latinx community, CBS Chicago points out. Lightfoot noted that some of the city's more culturally tight-knit communities may be experiencing higher incidents of COVID-19.

"What is turning out to be a positive attribute is turning into a risk factor," Lightfoot said. "We are all in this crisis together, but we are not all experiencing this crisis in the same way."

Arwady noted that the elderly continue to be at a higher risk to suffer from COVID-19. She added that fewer than 1 in 5 Chicagoans are over the age of 60 and 1 in 12 residents there, about 8%, are over the age of 70.

The city of Chicago released this graph on Monday, April 6, 2020, that shows the majority of Chicago residents who become infected with COVID-19 are African American.

"Seventy-one percent of Chicago's COVID-19 deaths have been in people over 60," Arwady said, adding that people with underlying conditions such as chronic lung disease, diabetes and hypertension continue to be most at-risk. 

"Diabetes rates among blacks in Chicago are double the rates of what they are for whites in Chicago," Arwady added

Statistically, men in Chicago are more affected by COVID-19 than women, primarily due to their habits and underlying conditions.

"Men, as compared to women, have higher rates of deaths from chronic disease, are less likely to seek medical help, are more likely to smoke and actually are less likely to wash their hands and to use soap," Arwady said.

Dr. Monica Peek studies health disparities at the University of Chicago Medicine. She told CBS News that African Americans are more likely to have underlying health conditions and still be working.

"When the city puts out orders for people to shelter in place ... the grocery stores are open ... public transit is still open," she said. "And the people that are working in those jobs are primarily or disproportionately racial or ethnic minorities."

Dr. Peek said both race and socioeconomic status contribute to this trend. But since testing hasn't been comprehensive, city health officials say the real problem is likely worse.

City of Chicago partners with sports teams to curb virus spread

Also on Monday, the Chicago mayor and eight of the city's professional sports teams joined forces in urging residents to remain home to stem the coronavirus outbreak.

The Bears, Blackhawks, Bulls, Cubs and White Sox, along with the WNBA's Sky, MLS' Fire and National Women's Soccer League's Red Stars announced a "We Are Not Playing" campaign. The aim is to promote compliance with the state's stay-at-home order.

The Associated Press said the initiative will kick off with billboards around Chicago and digital and social media advertisements. Player videos will come online in the next phase.

"I am grateful to each of our hometown teams for stepping up and doing their part by joining in this call for every neighborhood and community," Lightfoot said in a statement. "They're not playing, and neither are we. The more we stay home and act responsibly, the more lives we'll save, and the sooner we'll be able to get our city back on track and enjoying the games we love."

Adriana Diaz contributed to this report.

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