COVID-19 cases are on the rise in Illinois as winter nears and the temperature drops. The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) reports more than 5,000 new cases in Chicago and nearly 30,000 in the state just this week.
Experts say the cold weather is making people stay inside where it is easier for the virus to spread.
Despite COVID cases moving in the wrong direction, IDPH is applauding that 58-percent of the state’s population is fully vaccinated.
No reason to celebrate says Dr. Marina Del Rios, former emergency room doctor at the University of Illinois Hospital, and member of the Illinois Unidos coalition. She fears communities of color like Englewood and South Shore are being left behind.
Dr. Del Rios says health disparities exacerbated by the pandemic persist. “There are areas in the City that are health-care deserts,” she said in an interview on IL Latino News’s “3 Questions With…” podcast. “Until we invest in the long term to ensure that every community has the same access to primary care – we’re going to continue to see these disparities.”
According to research conducted in 2019 by the University of Chicago Medicine, African American census tracts in large US cities, Chicago included – are more likely than white-majority neighborhoods to be located in trauma care deserts that are greater than five miles from a trauma center offering emergency medical services and specialists.
Dr. Del Rios was the first person in Chicago to be vaccinated against COVID-19. “Sometimes people just need to see someone that they know, that they trust, who has gone through it,” she said in an interview with WTTW at the time she was inoculated. “That’s why I felt it was very important for me to step up, not only as a medical provider but also as a medical provider who is Latina to show my community to say that ‘Hey, I understand your concerns.”
Dr. Del Rios has been leading by example since COVID-19 besieged the City’s Hispanic-Latino community, joining Illinois Unidos, a coalition of over 100 health professionals, community-based organizations, elected and appointed officials, and interested professionals. The organization has been credited for providing invaluable information and counsel to Governor J. B. Pritzker and Mayor Lori Lightfoot.
“We’re trying to communicate both at the City and State level – community-based organizations that have the cultural sensitivity, the language competency to reach a segment of the population that may not be easily reached by your usual health-care organizations,” she said.
Dr. Marina Del Rios, MD, MS is currently an emergency physician at the University of Iowa. She is an emergency physician with over 16 years of experience working in tertiary care hospitals serving marginalized communities in New York City and Chicago.
She is an active member of the Puerto Rican Agenda’s Health Committee. Dr. Del Rios also serves as Chair of the Health and Policy Committee of Illinois Unidos, a cross-sectoral partnership of elected and appointed officials, health professionals, and leaders of community-based organizations that aims to stop the transmission of COVID-19 and address the pandemic’s devastating public health and economic impact in Latinx communities.
Everyone 5 and older is eligible to get vaccinated in Chicago.
For information on COVID-19 vaccinations, the city’s coronavirus hotline is 312-746-4835. Vaccines are free and do not require insurance.
The Chicago Reporter and ILLatinoNews; partners in best serving the Hispanic-Latino community.