Illinois Unidos Urges Leadership and Immediate Action from Governor Pritzker, County President Preckwinkle, Mayor Lightfoot and Public Health Agencies

While public policies must be fair and equitable to all, it is imperative that resource allocation decisions also are equitable. In the case of COVID, the communities most negatively impacted by COVID must receive resources that are proportional to that devastation. In the case of COVID, whether it is, for example, case rate per 100,000, age-adjusted death rates, or job loss due to the pandemic, it is the Latino community that has been most severely impacted. Therefore, as resources are allocated and intervention strategies designed to mitigate further damage from COVID, what is apportioned to the Latino community must be reflective of the true damage COVID has caused within and to the Latino community.

We cannot lose sight of how COVID has disproportionately impacted the Latino community. In Illinois, Latinos are 24% of cases in people under the age of 20. Two factors inform the urgency of this moment: public schools will soon open, and the increase in long haulers among Latino youth is gaining traction (e.g., persons who have not recovered from the virus weeks and months after first becoming ill). This has become one of the hardest-hit groups.

Action is required now. Our recommendations call for immediate and long-term actions to halt the spread of COVID in the Latino community and other high-impacted communities. Illinois Unidos will monitor this situation with the expectation that immediate, consistent, and appropriate actions will take place to protect Latino children and youth in particular, and the Latino community in general.

We urge that state, county and city officials, public health departments and agencies to immediately take the following actions:


––– Statewide Communication, Protection and Safety ––– 

State of Illinois: Governor JB Pritzker, State of Illinois Department of Public Health, 

Illinois State Board of Education

Cook County: President Toni Preckwinkle and Cook County Health Systems

  1. Reinstate protective measures immediately and mandate the use of face masks in any indoor, outdoor and all public spaces.
  1. Suspend all fairs and public events until the virus and its new variants are fully under control (e.g, cases have diminished significantly, and herd immunity has been attained).
  1. Ensure consistent and coordinated bilingual messaging of state, county and city alerts to Latino communities.   Such alerts and messages must be culturally appropriate, and available through various sources, including print (e.g, local newspapers); electronic (television, cable and radio stations) and digital platforms (Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp) and any other public communications outlets.
  1. Consider public policies to support minors below the age of 18 who want to be vaccinated including the “mature minor doctrine.”
  1. State of Illinois Workforce:
  • Protect public transportation, food and hospitality employees and all essential workers,  including emergency medical staff, by requiring employers to ensure they are tested and vaccinated.
  • Enact statewide legislation for workers’ protected time for testing, vaccination, and isolation and legislation for transparency of COVID cases,  and possible exposure based on day and work shift in the workplace and schools.
  • Declare Emergency Medical Services an essential service and use COVID Recovery funds to ensure safe staffing for emergency medical services.
  1. Require that all new construction undergo air quality tests, and a harm reduction plan is in place (e.g., appropriate ventilation)

––– Illinois Department of Public Health and Cook County Health Systems –––

State of Illinois: Governor JB Pritzker, State of Illinois Department of Public Health, Illinois State Board of Education

Cook County: President Toni Preckwinkle and Cook County Health Systems

  1. Testing and Vaccination

As resources are allocated and strategies designed to ensure equitable distribution of and access to COVID rapid testing and COVID vaccines, it is important to consider that a large proportion of Latinos, ~21-25%, remain age ineligible for the vaccine. This is of grave concern given the living and working conditions of Latino families along with the current Delta variant trends. Therefore:

  • Immediately add “vaccination status” to statewide testing data collection forms obtained at the time of testing. 
  • IDPH must implement a strategy to obtain a sampling of genomic sequencing that is reflective of the areas most impacted by new COVID cases (e.g., areas with the highest incidence of positive cases).
  • Restore funds and reopen the state’s testing sites, with a specific focus and outreach to high-risk communities in the County of Cook, and throughout Illinois.  Protect the public by confirming that all testers are vaccinated.
  • Partner with Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC) and hospitals in communities with high coronavirus rates and outbreaks to conduct testing and vaccination.
  • Implement a multilingual information, education, and messaging campaign that targets vaccination of children and youth (18 and under).  Identify and recruit local celebrities and known sector leaders to participate.
  • Issue a directive requiring the vaccination of individuals employed by public agencies, public and private hospitals, and clinics, public, private and parochial schools, academic centers (e.g, vocational schools, junior city colleges, colleges, and universities), childcare centers, and any other sites where there is proximity or close contact between people. 

2. Authorize pediatricians and family physicians to immunize their patients, and assist local communities with their vaccination efforts (e.g., schools, churches, businesses, and other venues). 

3. Urge corporate leaders and the business community to ensure all employees are tested and vaccinated.

4. Require employers to implement health and safety measures such as testing, PPE and face mask use, and appropriate workspace ventilation.   

5. Release and make available statewide data on the hospitalization rates, treatment and deaths by ethnic and racial community and by zip code and age (this is important because the age-adjusted data vividly illustrates the differential impact on the Latino community).

6. Immediate: Address healthcare workers’ and medical professionals’ work overload, burnout, and stress levels.  

7. Act, Forecast, and Plan: Allocate funds to address the shortage of bilingual healthcare workers (translators, therapists, psychologists, social workers, trauma counselors, nurses, technicians, and physicians, etc.) by: 

  • immediately creating multiple pipelines and programs to identify, prepare, train and employ the next generation of bilingual healthcare workers, medical and health professionals; and retrain and retool the existing healthcare workforce as a proactive response to the changing health sector. 
  1. Increase testing and vaccination funds to FQHCs and public clinics serving Latino families.


––– Public, Private and Parochial Child Care Centers and Schools ––– 

State of Illinois: Governor JB Pritzker, State of Illinois Department of Public Health, Illinois State Board of Education

City of Chicago: Honorable Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Chicago Board of Education and Chicago Public Schools

  1. Allocate American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA) capital funds to ensure all child care centers and public and private schools have appropriate protective practices, risk management strategies, and prevention measures in all classrooms, and common spaces,  and including universal carbon dioxide monitoring to ensure appropriate ventilation with each classroom reaching the target of < 1000ppm. (already implemented in Minnesota, Washington State, California schools).
  1. Conduct universal and weekly testing in all school districts, specifically for the unvaccinated. 
  1. Require vaccination of all faculty, classroom, and custodial staff, vendors, and volunteers.  
  1. Disclose vaccination rates of all school districts in Illinois on a monthly basis.
  1. Prioritize student groups (e.g, 18 and under)  for testing and vaccination.
  1. Reinforce Universal Masking for all students, staff, and faculty regardless of their vaccination status.
  1. Inform, educate and encourage vaccination by engaging community health workers/health promoters to conduct community outreach and provide vaccination information to parents and caregivers.
  1. Allow parents to sign a waiver if they are not able to accompany their child/ren to vaccination appointments.
  1. Establish a clear and widely distributed protocol addressing positive COVID cases in the classroom and required or expected follow-thru on additional testing and classroom closure.
  1. Establish an online, virtual school option for all who seek it with the goal to reduce childhood and family stress and allow for maximum academic performance.
  1. Form school/campus health and safety committees to support prevention and safety measures, assist with “vaccinations” recruitment and provide information to parents and caregivers.   
  1. Allocate the funds to mitigate the virtual learning gap and digital divide, including equal and affordable access to the internet, wi-fi, and broadband for all public-school students.

––– Citywide Communication,  Protection, and Safety ––– 

City of Chicago: Mayor Lori Lightfoot and City of Chicago Department of Public Health, City of Chicago Family and Support Services

1. Reinstate protective measures immediately by mandating the use of face masks in indoor, outdoor, and all public spaces.

2. Require the Chicago Department of Public Health to publicly identify coronavirus rates by zip codes, and increase transparency on the prevalence of COVID variants with a particular focus on high-risk communities.  

3. Suspend all citywide public events (where large crowds may congregate) until the virus is fully under control (e.g, citywide cases have diminished significantly, and herd immunity has been attained). 

4. Ensure City of Chicago public messages are coherent, clear, and coordinated with state and county agencies, and available through various sources, including print, electronic, and digital platforms and other necessary, community-based communications outlets.

5. Protect the transportation, food, and hospitality workforce by requiring their employers to provide workers time to test and vaccinate without retaliatory actions.   

6. Expand testing and vaccination clinic hours and accessibility to include onsite employer facilitated testing and vaccination.


––– Chicago Department of Public Health ––– 

City of Chicago: Mayor Lori Lightfoot and City of Chicago Department of Public Health, City of Chicago Family and Support Services

  1. Improve the consistency and coordination of public messages and communication between government officials and health departments by including compelling narratives and personal stories that prompt Latino families to vaccinate.  
  1. Release and make available citywide data on the hospitalization rates, treatment, and deaths by vaccination status, as well as COVID variants, by ethnic and racial community, and by zip code.
  1. Notify families of classroom COVID positive cases and direct appropriate testing and isolation needs.
  1. Urge Chicago’s corporate leaders and the business community to require vaccination of their employees,  and specifically, essential workers in high contact with the public or who work in proximity to others.
  1. Augment resources (financial and non-financial) to frontline health providers such as FQHC’s that provide testing and vaccination to Latino elderly, multigenerational families, immigrants, and undocumented workers.
  1. Promote testing and vaccination of pregnant individuals in Latino communities.
  1. Undertake a multilingual campaign to undo hesitancy and anti-vaccine misinformation.
  1. Create and present a public plan outlining how ARPA funds have been allocated and used to implement short-term and long-term preventive health and safety measures.