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CHICAGO — African Americans in Chicago continue to be disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, and city officials are trying to do something about it.

The city’s new Racial Equity Rapid Response Team (RERRT) will target three communities that have been hit hardest by the coronavirus: Austin, Auburn Gresham and South Shore.

To provide targeted information and receive direct input from residents in each neighborhood, the RERRT is hosting three tele-town halls, one for each of the priority communities. The town halls will be streamed live through a neighborhood organization’s social media platforms:

Thursday, April 23:

Saturday, April 25:

The RERRT’s other efforts in these neighborhoods include passing out personal protective equipment and neighborhood canvassing.

African Americans, who make up 30% of Chicago’s population, make up 60% of the city’s COVID-19 related deaths, data shows.

“We may all be experiencing this crisis, but we aren’t experiencing this crisis in the same ways,” said Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Monday. “As I’ve said before, the health disparities that resulted in high rates of diabetes, heart and respiratory disease and other melodies are the very conditions that this virus ruthlessly attacks.”

To protect essential workers who continue to report to duty, the mayor announced masks will be handed out, departments will get COVID safety officers and the Hotel Julian in the Loop will provide safe space for city workers don’t want to return home.

Chicago to provide all essential city workers with cloth masks

All essential City of Chicago employees will be provided with and trained on cloth masks during the COVID-19 pandemic, Lightfoot announced Monday.

While city employees won’t be required to wear the masks, health officials now recommend wearing cloth faces coverings in public settings where social distancing is difficult to maintain.

Additionally, the city is rolling out a “Social Distancing Plan” that involves each city department appointing a COVID Safety Officer to ensure social distancing measures are followed.

Beginning next week, city employees diagnosed with COVID-19 who cannot safely isolate at home while they recover may stay at the Hotel Julian, one of the city’s quarantine and isolation hotels.

Earlier this month, the city announced an agreement with Hotel Essex to provide first responders with a place to stay without risking the health of their families during the pandemic.

Additionally, the City has partnered with London House and the Godfrey Hotel to provide healthcare workers a place to sleep, shower or eat.