Nov 9, 2020
For those who can afford it, COVID testing in Chicago has vastly improved since the first wave hit the city in April. The city’s top hospitals like Rush and Northwestern give tests to their patients right away, with results within 48 hours. Those willing to pay $150 in cash—no insurance accepted—can get tested at a private clinic.
But for many workers, a COVID-19 test is as hard to get today as it was seven months ago.
The city-run testing sites especially on the South and Southwest sides have waits of two or three hours—and sometimes two or three days. They take much longer to get results. And in big stretches of Chicago there are no city-run sites at all.
The Southwest Side is the single hardest hit area of the city as the second wave hits Chicago with a vengeance. Just two zip codes had 11,300 confirmed cases by the end of October—or one in eighteen residents—and at least 225 confirmed COVID deaths. Of those who managed to get tests, at the end of October, more than 25% were coming back positive!
The real numbers of infected people are surely higher because many who get the virus cannot get tested. In this whole area with more than 200,000 people, there is no permanent testing center—despite city promises to open one six months ago. Instead, there are just pop-sites that usually run out of tests and turn away sick people.
The Southwest Side neighborhoods are far from the city’s best hospitals. Many undocumented immigrants live there, and many essential workers. They can’t work from home and often lack insurance. All the way back in May, the city’s department of public health admitted that workers in this area were the most vulnerable to the second wave they expected to hit in the fall, and that has now arrived. And yet—the city did nothing to even provide testing.
Like everything else in capitalist Chicago, your risk of dying in this pandemic depends on your social class.