CHICAGO (CBS) — Seeking to shine a spotlight in how the novel coronavirus pandemic has disproportionately affected poor and minority communities, Cook County officials have unveiled a new tool to help track deaths from COVID-19.
Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, Cook County Medical Examiner Dr. Ponni Arunkumar, and other county officials announced a new online dashboard that allows people to view a map of where each COVID-19 death has occurred, by city.
The tool also allows users to track virus deaths by race, gender, ethnicity, age range, and date range. Arunkumar said the information on the dashboard can help officials identify clusters of coronavirus cases, and help them make the best decisions needed to save more lives.
“We realized that we needed to enhance our ability to provide data specific to this pandemic, so that the people on the front lines of the fight against this virus can easily access information about where the deaths are occurring,” Arunkumar said.
As of Thursday morning, 707 people in Cook County have died of COVID-19. African Americans accounted for 355 of those deaths, or approximately 50%, even though they make up less than 23% of the county’s population, according to Arunkumar. In Chicago, African Americans have accounted for approximately 60% of the COVID deaths so far, while they make up 30% of the population.
“This statistic is jarring, and it’s a reminder of the crippling toll that structural racism and economic inequality have on our communities,” Preckwinkle said.
Preckwinkle said the COVID-19 outbreak in Cook County has shared some of the same trends as the infamous 1995 heat wave, when nearly 750 people in Chicago died from the heat in less than a week.
“Most of them lived on the South and West sides of Cook County. Most of them lived in neighborhoods that suffered from decades of disinvestment, racist government policies, redlining, and over-policing,” Preckwinkle said. “For this crisis and the next crisis that hits, we can’t repeat the same mistakes, whether it be the heat wave of 1995, Hurricane Katrina, or a global pandemic. We can’t continue to allow our black and brown communities to be hit the hardest by every single catastrophe.”
County officials also unveiled the “Social Vulnerability Index,” an interactive tool which allows people to see a map of census tracts in Cook County; showing disparities in poverty, access to public transportation, life expectancy, gun violence, and more.
Social Vulnerability is a term used by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to describe the susceptibility of specific communities to the effects of a disaster.