Latinx Illinoisans Surpass All Groups in Coronavirus Cases

Notes from the 5/13/2020 issue

Latinx Illinoisans surpass all groups in coronavirus cases

Many Latinx residents of Illinois are essential workers and face an alarming surge in COVID-19 cases despite making up less than a fifth of the state population. Cases are concentrated in Chicago—particularly in Little Village, Archer Heights and Belmont-Cragin—and Cook County, including suburban Cicero, according to data published by the Illinois Department of Public Health. Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s “racial equity” rapid response teams launched a multi-lingual awareness campaign and new testing sites, and are working with local unions like SEIU Local 1, United Here Local 1, and the Laborers District Council to address case clusters in industries and facilities “with a high Latinx workforce.” But President Donald Trump’s simultaneous demonization of immigrants and his push to reopen the economy during the peak of the pandemic could mean a death sentence for many in this community and be disastrous for the country.

A long way to go before things go back to normal

On May 8, a few days after Governor J.B. Pritzker announced his five-stage plan for reopening Illinois region by region, Mayor Lori Lightfoot followed suit with a plan of her own, built along similar public health guidelines. The city’s currently considered to be in “Phase Two” of the plan, with the stay-at-home order still widely in place and all non-essential workers working from home. To move to “Phase Three,” we’ll need to meet certain set rates of new cases of COVID-19 and a declining or stable rate of hospitalizations, ICU admittance, and deaths, and ensure that the city can test at least five percent of residents a month. If these and other epidemiological benchmarks are met, some businesses can reopen and non-essential workers may return to work—and social gatherings of less than ten people will be allowed. But though in the coming weeks six new testing sites are slated to open in Little Village, Englewood, Belmont-Cragin, Gage Park, Pullman, and at Sox Park (aka Guaranteed Rage Field), with the rate of positive test results currently hovering around twenty-six percent, Chicago does not appear to be anywhere near on track to meet these goals. 

The mayor’s pledge with big landlords

Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s Housing Solidarity Pledge asks landlords and lenders to provide grace periods during the pandemic and waive late fees for rent or mortgage payments, suspend foreclosures until the end of May, and allow for written repayment plans. No tenants’ groups appear to have been consulted on the non-binding document, however; if they were, none signed on. The Hyde Park Herald reported two of Hyde Park’s largest landlords have continued to bring eviction proceedings against tenants. TLC Management Company has filed dozens of lawsuits since Governor J.B. Pritzker’s stay-at-home order took effect in March—in at least eight of those cases, the company acknowledged the tenants had only failed to pay their April rent. Mac Properties filed to evict two tenants for “bad behavior.” Last week, TLC said it would withdraw a pair of lawsuits against tenants in South Shore after finding out they were in violation of the federal CARES Act, after activists brought it to public attention. TLC and Mac said they will honor the mayor’s pledge and will not file more evictions for non-payment of rent until the crisis is over. Of course, that doesn’t help the tenants who have already been sued and are in legal limbo until the courts open back up. But it is good PR for companies whose revenues haven’t really been hurt much—rent payment figures are only about 1.5 percent lower than the same time last year. If the stimulus checks and unemployment money run out, we’ll see whether the landlords’ benevolence persists.

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