Pandemic next steps: ‘everyone in, nobody out’ solutions

Zoom call on April 2 

We’re grateful to the more than 40 community leaders from across the Chicago region and beyond who came together over six hours in three phone calls Thursday, March 26, Thursday April 2, and Wednesday April 8. Read our earlier blog post about the first call here. 

Here are two key takeaways: 

  • Our losses due to the coronavirus pandemic are profound and the crisis is taking a toll on us all. Those of us who work to serve and support communities are facing this toll at home and on the job. 
  • We can’t imagine a clearer indicator than COVID-19 that society needs new systems to see and support individuals and communities regardless of who you are and where you live.  

From health and human service agencies to advocacy, policy and philanthropic organizations, we gathered a cross section of groups serving all communities. Together we processed immediate needs and concerns, inventoried our gifts and assets we bring to this situation, and developed shared insights and ideas about what has happened and how to proceed. 

We’re inspired by the sum-ups from some of those who joined us on these calls when we asked what you’d be taking away from your participation:



Keep fighting harder and smarter 


Deeper connections


Community and Solidarity 

Inspired action 



One participant summed up this sense well: “We’ve been talking about the fact we don’t need more research or information about disparities, we need people to know and care about the information out there.” 

This is our call to action and our time to act. 

The disproportionate impact of the pandemic on people of color hit the news in early April. It was first reported on WBEZ, that 70% of people dying from COVID-19 in Chicago are African American. The station’s reporters said most African Americans who died from COVID-19 had underlying health conditions: “81% of them had hypertension, or high blood pressure, diabetes or both,” they said. 

Within days, the news also reported that Cook County Jail has a higher rate of infection “than most anywhere else in the country” (NPR, 4-13). 

Read Up: Resources on C19 Disproportionate Impact

Those health issues highlight how the pandemic has not caused current inequities, only shown them to us in the form of life and death consequences. 

  • Before COVID-19, we knew that concentrating polluters in communities of color — environmental racism — leads to higher levels of asthma in those places. 
  • We already knew lack of access to healthy foods in communities of color that have been qualified as food deserts plays a key role in those same health issues. 
  • And, we see how a lack of resource allocation (e.g., jobs, transportation) in communities of color can cause higher levels of stress that increase hypertension. 

Liz Dozier and the team at Chicago Beyond have dramatized this in their recent letter to the community “Calling Out the Red Lines.” As they point out in the powerful animated map below, old inequities led to today’s crisis:

“In fact, by laying over the latest map provided by the city on COVID-19 infection rates by zip code to a historical map showing Chicago’s history of redlining, you can begin to visually see the linkage of past discriminatory practices and the compounded effects of what we’re seeing today.”

Chicago Beyond overlaid a 1930 redlining map with a 2020 C19 map, showing the same communities hit hard by both.

As Dozier and her colleagues point out, it couldn’t be more obvious how systems built in unequal treatment from the beginning. We need new systems that center empathy, support social cohesion and foster strong relationships between people and the institutions that are supposed to serve them. 

We hope everyone who was able to participate in the convenings as well as visitors to our site will join us in reimagining systems that better serve people’s potential and well being in this moment and beyond.  

As evaluators and advocates, we must organize and track solutions our communities need right now, so we can strengthen and build anew the systems we will need for the long term as we emerge from this moment of crisis. 

If you’re with us, thank you! If you have questions about how to help document structural racism and build equity, want to share your efforts, or just want to connect, please let us know via our contact form