A group formed to improve outreach among Illinois Latinos on how to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 has identified four priorities to slow the outbreak in the community.
The Illinois Latino COVID-19 Initiative, a collection of public health experts and elected officials, has highlighted improved collection of coronavirus data, increased testing in the Latino community, equitable investment and increased Latino representation in health task forces as key issues.
The group met for the first time April 11 to discuss emerging COVID-19 data trends that suggested the virus was spreading faster in Latino communities. A recent analysis by Chicago-based Enigma Forensics found Latinos make up 60% of the population in the 10 ZIP codes in Illinois with the fastest-growing number of new COVID-19 cases.
However, the initiative believes the true impact of the virus in Latino communities is unclear.
While Latinos make up 14% of COVID-19 cases in the state, some who have tested positive for the virus were mislabeled as being white, according to a recent report by WBEZ.
“There are legitimate concerns that the Latino community is being undercounted in many aspects of data collection and how it is reported,” the group said. “Latinos are often categorized as ‘white’ or ‘black’ and the questions of ethnicity are ignored.”
The initiative urged county, state and city entities to improve data collection in areas including preferred or primary language (language most often used at home), number of Latinos who tested positive, total number of tests conducted by ethnicity, and a full breakdown of deaths by demographic and geographic data.
Hospitals, funeral directors and private labs should also improve in collecting their data, the group said.
Additionally, the group said rapid-result tests should be deployed to essential workers in Latino communities, and individuals must be informed that anyone can be tested for the virus regardless of their citizenship status.
The group also advised relief efforts from government, business and philanthropic sources be invested equitably toward the Latino Community.
“Latinos comprise one out of every three residents in Chicago and nearly one out of every five in Illinois. Their demographic representation needs to be met with equitable investment to contain the virus and benefit all of our communities,” the group said.
Finally, the initiative called for local task forces to increase Latino leadership in their ranks, and advised Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Gov. J.B. Pritzker to do the same.