lightford 041120 CHICAGO – Senate Majority Leader and Illinois Legislative Black Caucus Chair Kimberly A. Lightford (D-Maywood) is backing Gov. JB Pritzker’s efforts to expand COVID-19 testing in African-American and other minority communities across Illinois.

“Governor Pritzker’s leadership has been incredible throughout this devastating crisis,” Lightford said. “His announcement today shows his commitment to people from every part of our state, and the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus will continue to work alongside him to support his efforts.”

When the COVID-19 outbreak started, the ILBC developed concerns about the effects this pandemic would have on Black communities. Those concerns were validated on Monday when Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot brought attention to racial disparities in the number of deaths due to coronavirus, pointing out that 72% of the city’s fatalities were African-Americans. She was one of the first government leaders to address the “death gap,” a topic now being discussed across the nation and world.

“I was floored by Mayor Lightfoot’s data,” Lightford said. “I knew the disparities were there, but when they are reflected in number of deaths, it is never easy to digest. I am grateful for Mayor Lightfoot’s leadership in responding to this pandemic, and for taking action to address health care disparities.”

Today, Pritzker announced a partnership between Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago and four Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) on Chicago’s West and South Sides that will expand testing in these communities to an additional 400 tests per day. The expansion includes three locations in Illinois’ Metro East to assist communities in East St. Louis and the surrounding region, and another facility in the Markham-Harvey area of the South Suburbs.

“It is no secret that government has failed to make the proper investments in our communities. It has always been a top priority of the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus to steer resources into our communities for generations,” Lightford said. “We are now seeing the harsh consequences of centuries of systematic and institutional racism.”

Among the many reasons African Americans have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic is that they are often employed in positions that are deemed essential during this time.

“I send blessings and well wishes to our first responders and essential workers. We cannot thank them enough for their work. I am heartbroken by the devastation of lives being lost and I send my deepest condolences to their families,” Lightford said. “I also insist to those out there who have not been taking this seriously, that your actions make the difference between life and death. This is real, and it is only a matter of time before you or someone you love is infected. If you are not a first responder or an essential worker, please stay home.”

Lightford and the ILBC will continue advocating for African-American communities and all people across Illinois throughout our current crisis and beyond to address disparities in vulnerable communities.