WATCH: Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot says coronavirus is “devastating” the African American community

Mayor Lori Lightfoot argued Sunday during an appearance on “Face the Nation” that the COVID-19 pandemic is “devastating” African Americans disproportionately.

Margaret Brennan: Even though they make up just 30 percent of the city’s population. Why is this having such a heavy toll in the black community?

Lori Lightfoot: Well, this is an issue that’s not unique to Chicago, unfortunately. We’re seeing similar kinds of numbers reported across the country in large urban centers. And the answer that we believe is right is because of the underlying conditions that people of color and particularly black folks suffer from, whether it’s diabetes, heart disease, upper respiratory illnesses. The kind of things that we’ve been talking about for a long time that plague black Chicago, that lead to life expectancy gaps. This virus attacks those underlying conditions with a vengeance. Just this morning, I learned of a man that I know well, African American had an underlying condition and went very quickly as a result of the coronavirus. So it is devastating our community.

Margaret Brennan: What you said got the attention of the White House, as well as the surgeon general said from the podium that black Americans are not biologically or genetically predisposed. This is socially predisposed because of pre-existing health issues. 

Lori Lightfoot: Right. 

Margaret Brennan:  He rattled off a number of other factors. The point being, this is so layered in complexity. How do you, as a mayor, start chipping away at this?

Lori Lightfoot: Well, you start by making sure that you’ve got the data. One of the first things that we did is made sure that we issued an order to require all providers who were doing testing not to skip providing demographic information. We need to be able to accurately understand the impact of this virus. So that’s one. Get the data, share the data and then what we also put in place was a racial equity rapid response team. So this is a team of healthcare providers, public health clinicians, as well as stakeholders in community- faith community, block clubs. We have street intervention folks who normally work on responding to violence. We are going all in in a hyper local focus to make sure that we are tapping into those neighborhoods where there’s a high death rate, where there’s a high positive test rate. And we are bringing people into healthcare systems and making those kind of connections that may not have otherwise existed. But that’s the kind of hyper-local focus, along with some other measures that we’re doing to disabuse people of the myth that was circulating up until recently, that black people actually couldn’t get coronavirus.

Margaret Brennan: One of the other stats that stood out is that so many essential workers, frontline workers,–

Lori Lightfoot: Yes.

Margaret Brennan: -are people of color.

Lori Lightfoot: That’s right.


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