How COVID-19 is Affecting Chicago Neighborhoods

By Sandy Mizhquiri and Sophia Rodriguez

Since the beginning of 2020, the world at-large has struggled to control the current pandemic created by the COVID-19 virus. Many countries, states, and cities, have endeavored to guide their citizens through this hardship.

In attempting to avoid spreading fear and panic, nations have largely failed at keeping the public safe, whether that be due to a lack of resources or financial government assistance. While the public scrambles for any and all information regarding COVID-19, it is important to look into who the pandemic is affecting the most, and the people who are struggling to survive in the midst of it all.

In Illinois alone there are currently a total of 1.32 million cases, this information comes from the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH).

Attempting to picture 1.32 million cases may be difficult to see how widespread or centralized the COVID-19 outbreak has affected different areas, communities, and individuals. In order to get a better picture the focus will stay on the city of Chicago and how their residents have been affected.

Dr. Juanita Mora, expert immunologist and allergist at Chicago Allergy Center, said that she can see how hard Latinx and African American communities have been hit through the death, positive case ratings, fear, and employment insecurity. These concerns are reflected in the most affected areas in Chicago.

According to April 17 data from the Chicago data portal, there has been a 4.6% city-wide increase of positive COVID-19 cases which amounts to a total of 4,423 new cases in the last week. This data focused on the week of April 11 to the 17th.

The most affected areas include the 60639, 60634, 60632 and 60629 ZIP codes in the Belmont Cragin, Dunning, Archer Heights and West Lawn neighborhoods. The Chicago COVID Dashboard shows a breakdown of COVID-19 stats in each neighborhood.

Starting with the Belmont Cragin area, which had the highest positivity rate on April 5, 2020 of 46.36%, with a total of 159 cases, and five deaths. Number of cases and death continue to rise until July 2020, where there is a stagnant line in the data ranging under a 10% positivity rating.

The 2020 Community Data Snapshot for the Belmont Cragin neighborhood, shows that the breakdown of ethnicities were 81.99% Hispanic, 12.88% White and 2.34% Black. It isn’t until November 2020, that there is yet another rise of cases that amounted to 909 new cases, 6 deaths and a lower rate of 23.73%. This brings about the question, if this was a similar pattern being seen in communities made up of minorities.

The Archer Heights neighborhood saw the highest positivity rate on April 19, 2020, with a total of 452 cases, seven deaths and a 56.08% positivity rate. According to the Community Data Snapshot for the Archer Heights, over 77.44% of the community is Hispanic, 16.32% White and 0.94% Black. This shows a pattern in the data collected on neighborhoods made up of mainly minorities who suffered the most due to COVID-19.

Nurse Delilah Ramirez works in the cardiac unit at the Resurrection Medical Center for over two years, and has seen the dramatic shift due to COVID-19.

Ramirez said she’s felt stressed out due to COVID, but more recently has been able to calm down as numbers have decreased. In March 2020, she remembers all the hospitals and staff being extremely short on Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as masks, gowns, and gloves. She recalls having to place the equipment into plastic bags to save and reuse for another patient until they broke and could no longer be used.

She described how she has seen a bunch of different COVID-19 patients and that it’s hit everyone the same, except seniors who suffer the most. She said she does, however, feel that there is an issue with unfair treatment in the Rapid Responses.

These doctors and nurses are responsible for treating patients who have an immediate change in their status. But because of COVID-19 she has noticed that the workers are less inclined to enter the room due to fear of contracting the virus.

A person particularly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic working in the 60639 area was Marlem Olivar, 19, an essential worker with Home Depot. Olivar, like many others, has had to make a difficult decision in regards to her life and academics while the pandemic rose to critical heights. It was at this point in late March where she made the difficult decision to withdraw from her education temporarily in order to support her family.

In particular it seems that those who have been hit particularly hard have been sorely neglected by the general public’s gratitude and appreciation. In one such case, Olivar described how it felt to be labeled as such and how it may have affected her personal identity.

“I don’t know it felt like that was all that my life became was work, work, work, and despite working in the midst of the pandemic customers and people’s attitude inside the store didn’t change,” she said.

She recounted how it was difficult to grasp the reality of the current situation, how knowing the pandemic existed was difficult to come to terms with because it seemed like an unbelievable horror.

While she did not personally live in the areas mentioned above, she noted that she would see how difficult the pandemic was making certain neighborhoods struggle in terms of having supplies, access to information, and more. Her father who lives near the Belmont Cragin area unfortunately contacted the COVID-19 virus.

Olivar recounted how difficult it was for her to watch her father struggle with physicians because.

“There’s a language barrier, even with me translating some medical words are just hard to explain and I can’t be there all the time,” she said.