A group of people giving out supplies
Jun 26, 2020 - Elmhurst YMCA

Working to Close the Health Inequality Gap

Of the total number of people diagnosed with the coronavirus (COVID-19) so far in the city of Chicago, a staggering 76.3 percent are from the Latinx or Black communities. The pandemic has helped to highlight the stark inequalities that exist in today’s society around access to crucial services, in particular, health, education, and housing.

As Illinoisans learn to adapt to the Governor’s mandate that facemasks must be worn in public when social distancing is not an option, not all families are able to comply due to a lack of access to personal protective equipment (PPE). In an attempt to bridge the gap for these communities, the Y recently joined forces with Medline and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois (BCBS) for the “Wash and Wear Community Mask Project.” The three partners distributed 100,000 facemasks at no charge to families living in some of Chicago’s most under-resourced neighborhoods that are being disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Medline supplied the reusable masks, which are made from the same fabric as medical scrubs, and have been tested to withstand up to 25 launderings. The collaboration drew on the Y and BCBS’s deep-rooted community connections to strategically target Chicago’s hardest-hit communities. The Y distributed masks to more than one thousand people at six of its locations and partner sites to help protect them and their families from the virus:

-          Rauner Family YMCA in Pilsen/Little Village

-          Kelly Hall YMCA in Humboldt Park

-          High Ridge YMCA in West Ridge

-          Claremont School in West Englewood

-          Alex Haley Academy in Roseland

-          By the Hand Club for Kids in Austin

BCBS also distributed masks in Auburn Gresham, Chatham, Rosemoor, North Lawndale, and South Lawndale.

The Y remains committed to doing what it can to help our city get through these challenging times. As we prepare to reopen our centers in stages, top of our mind is not only to keep our members and staff safe, but also an urgent focus on creating environments where disparities are recognized and addressed.