CHICAGO (CBS) — Hoping to be able to be able to conduct 4,500 coronavirus tests per day in Chicago in order to move on to the next phase of reopening, Mayor Lori Lightfoot and actor Sean Penn on Monday toured one of two new testing sites recently opened in partnership with Penn’s disaster relief charity CORE.
Last week, the city announced it was teaming up with CORE and biotech firm Curative-Korva to create six new testing sites in Chicago. Two of those sites, at Maria Saucedo Scholastic Academy in Little Village and at Prieto Math and Science Academy in Belmont Cragin, already have opened and conducted more than 800 tests in less than a week.
“It’s critically important that we expand the opportunities for testing in our city,” Lightfoot said.
During a visit to the testing site at Prieto Academy on Monday morning, Lightfoot said four more testing sites will soon open at Kennedy-King College, Gately Park, Senka Park, and Guaranteed Rate Field.
The testing site at Guaranteed Rate Field will open on May 26, and be dedicated to testing for healthcare workers and first responders. The other five sites are located in African American and Latinx communities, which have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
At those five sites, anyone with virus symptoms can be tested for free, regardless of their citizenship status, according to Lightfoot.
“I do not want any resident in our city to feel that they cannot access the range of healthcare resources because of their citizenship status. Please, please come out of the shadows. Make sure that you are taking advantage of these opportunities to get tested, get well, get connected up with services, and do not let your citizenship status be a barrier,” she said.
Anyone seeking to get tested at any of the six sites is encouraged to register for a test online at chicago.curativeinc.com/welcome.
Curative-Korva will help the city with the purchase of testing supplies for the sites, and will oversee lab testing.
CORE is helping the city oversee operation of the testing sites, as well as with purchasing testing supplies, and hiring staff. Penn’s charity has also opened testing sites in Los Angeles, Northern California, and Atlanta.
“There’s nothing special about doing this. This is what being citizens is, and I’m excited to be in the company of citizens and leadership,” Penn said.
Penn’s charity also has helped with disaster relief efforts after Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, and with the cholera epidemic in Hati, but he said the COVID-19 pandemic “is a very different dynamic than most of the disasters.”
That’s because, while there was a treatment available for cholera in Haiti, unlike with the novel coronavirus.
“In this case, we don’t have a treatment, and people who work front lines typically – and we see this with law enforcement, we see it with fire officials – people whose wiring is such that they’re taking risks themselves have to rewire because they themselves can become the gun,” Penn said.
The mayor said the city has averaged 3,500 virus tests per day over the past week, and is well on its way to reaching the goal of 4,500 tests per day in order to begin the next phase of reopening the city’s economy and easing stay-at-home restrictions in Chicago.
Lightfoot said she is hopeful the city will be able to begin gradually reopening at the end of the month.
“I know that the last eight weeks has been very difficult on people all over the city. I see it, I feel it myself, I know it amongst my family and my friends, but the progress that we have made is because each of you has acted responsibly, and done the things that are necessary to help protect ourselves,” she said. “Of course, staying home and save lives, but we need to continue all the other things; practicing social distancing, washing our hands with a level of frequency, and otherwise hand sanitizing.”