SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WCIA)– While leaders are concerned about keeping everyone safe from COVID-19, the novel coronavirus, some are particularly alarmed about the number of cases in one specific group.
African Americans make up the majority of positive cases in Illinois. Leaders in the black community have suggestions on what people should do to stop the spread.
“We all need to take this seriously in the black community. This is not a conspiracy, this is real,” said NAACP Illinois State President Teresa Haley. She is urging black Illinoisans to take the governor’s order to stay home seriously as the number African Americans lead the amount of confirmed cases in Illinois.
“We have to learn the facts for ourselves. Also with the messaging, we need to hear from people who look like us saying stay home, stay in the house because hearing other people say it but they are not dying at the same rate, we are not taking it as serious in the black community,” Haley said.
Some leaders in Central Illinois are already working to get the word out.
Springfield Ward 3 Alderwoman Doris Turner got her close friends and family members of all ages together to stress the message to the city.
“The one thing people are doing while this is happening is they are all over social media. You know? They are on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, just all over social media,” Turner said. “People are even doing house parties on social media, jam sessions and those kind of things so I felt like if we can pull something together and get it out on social media, that would be a perfect opportunity.”
Many people in the black community work in essential careers but leaders said even if you work in those businesses, you should stay home and take your symptoms seriously if you are feeling sick. They are also recommending people with underlying conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes and asthma to take extra precautions if they have to go out.
Statewide, the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) reports 163 of the 380 deaths in the state were associated with African Americans living in Illinois. Black people account for more than 70 percent of deaths in the Chicago-area according to the city’s public health department.
Early reports do not suggest the numbers are as dire in Central Illinois. In Champaign County, African Americans only make up around 19 percent of the county’s 67 cases. Other counties around the state, like Sangamon, are unsure of the demographics surrounding the cases as some patients’ ethnic backgrounds were not recorded. 3,477 positive cases and 26 deaths in the state were left blank according to IDPH.
Leaders, however, still advise African Americans to be vigilant in every part of the state.