Congressman García and Public Health Experts Call for Accurate Data to Address the Impact of COVID-19 on Latinos

April 18, 2020
Press Release

Chicago, IL- Congressman Jesús “Chuy” García (IL-04) spoke with Chicago health experts this week about the COVID-19 pandemic and the high rate of illness in the Latino community. Recent reports reveal that Latino/Latina and Black communities are being affected at an alarming rate, yet the federal government is not reporting demographic data to better assess the impact on minority communities. The Congressman has asked repeatedly for accurate data collection from federal agencies.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is hitting communities of color the hardest and we fear that the rates may be higher than what we know for Latinos. From farm workers to grocery store employees to doctors and nurses, we are working on the front lines serving people. The people in my community are more likely to be exposed to the virus every day. I have been in constant communication with Mayor Lori Lightfoot and she is working with us to find ways to collect more accurate data on the racial breakdown of COVID-19 cases and fatalities in Chicago. But this needs to be a national effort. Last week, I joined my colleagues in the Illinois delegation calling the Trump Administration to require the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to publicly report demographic data. We are still waiting for an answer.

While the recently passed CARES Act expands access to free testing for uninsured individuals, it excludes a large number of immigrants. In Chicago, Mayor Lori Lightfoot has signed an executive order explicitly ensuring that all benefits, opportunities, and services provided or administered by the City of Chicago are accessible to all residents, regardless of birth country or current citizenship status. These are policies that need to be implemented nationwide as immigrant communities remain afraid to seek help because of the anti-immigrant climate President Trump has fostered since his campaign”, said Congressman García.

“We are seeing high rates of infection in the Latino and African American community we serve. Our testing positivity rate is over 50% compared to the statewide positivity rate of around 20%. Federal and state resources should prioritize these communities and the safety net hospitals that stand ready to serve them,” said Dr. Alfredo Mena Lora, Director of Infection Control at Saint Anthony Hospital in Chicago.

“Latino populations in Chicago have several risk factors that may exacerbate COVID-19 outcomes, including elevated rates of diabetes, asthma, obesity, and smoking (as seen in data from the Sinai Community Health Survey). On top of that, there are many barriers preventing Latinos from getting tested and treated. Based on reports from our community health workers, who are from the communities we serve and who are making calls to their participants still, common barriers include fear and distrust of government and healthcare sources, lack of insurance, difficulties practicing social distancing, and a lack of easily accessible and understandable information in Spanish,” said Dr. Maureen R. Benjamins, Senior Research Fellow at the Sinai Urban Health Institute.

Congressman Garcia recently joined a group of other Latino elected officials from the Chicago City Council, Cook County Board of Commissioners, the Illinois Legislature, together with health experts, and representatives of community-based organizations to launch the Illinois Latino COVID-19 Initiative. The purpose of this initiative is to call the state government to promptly address the barriers Latinos are currently facing due to flaws in data collection, education, outreach and services available to the community.