New statewide data is exposing racial fault lines among people who die from COVID-19 and those who don’t, with 42% of deaths thus far afflicting black Illinoisans even though they represent just 15% of the population.
The data comes from the Illinois Department of Public Health. The agency released a trove of demographic information on COVID-19 cases by zip code Monday, showing West Rogers Park on Chicago’s North Side as the neighborhood with the most cases in the city followed closely by the South Side neighborhoods of Roseland and Chatham.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot declared a “public health red alarm” on Monday over racial data first published by WBEZ that outlined the disproportionate way in which black residents of Chicago were dying from the novel coronavirus. In the city, 70% of the people who died as of Saturday were African Americans, who make up just 29% of the city’s population.
Both city and state officials have attributed the trend, in part, to black residents living in higher concentrations in neighborhoods that lack access to quality health care services and grocery stores with fresh produce.
State officials say African Americans are also more likely to have preexisting medical conditions that could complicate a coronavirus infection.
“There are a large number of people in the African American community with diabetes and with hypertension, and those are comorbidities that can cause greater problems with COVID-19,” Gov. JB Pritzker said at his Monday briefing when asked about the racial disparities.
The governor also pointed to fewer quality health care options in communities of color.
“So we are countering it both by reopening hospitals that are in those communities … as well as by making sure we’re messaging properly,” Pritzker said. “We’re using social media and our All In Illinois campaign to message directly into the African American community about stay at home, about making sure people are washing their hands, that they’re wiping down surfaces.”
The data released by Pritzker’s administration show those racial inequities extend well beyond the city’s limits.
As of Tuesday morning, Illinois had nearly 12,300 confirmed COVID-19 cases, including more than 300 deaths. By contrast, white Illinoisans accounted for 37% of COVID-19 deaths yet make up roughly 77% of the state’s population, the state data shows.
Statewide, Hispanics represented more than 7% of COVID-19 deaths, while Asian Americans accounted for slightly more than 4% of deaths. Hispanics or Latinos represent 17% of the state’s population, while Asians account for about 6%.
The state data lacks racial information on roughly a quarter of all cases.
By age, nearly half of the state’s confirmed COVID-19 cases involve people under the age of 50, though the greatest concentration of deaths by far have hit those over 60.
And by gender, men and women have contracted COVID-19 across the state in relatively equal terms: 50% percent of positive cases are women and 49% are men. But in terms of deaths, men accounted for nearly 57% percent of COVID-19 fatalities compared to 43% for women.
Dave McKinney covers Illinois state politics and government for WBEZ. Follow him on Twitter @davemckinney.