In Chicago, Latinos struggle to find relief from devastation of COVID-19

Many feel compelled to continue going to work, despite the risks of exposure, to feed their families.
11:05 | 05/23/20

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Transcript for In Chicago, Latinos struggle to find relief from devastation of COVID-19
Tonight, Chicago by the numbers. Zeroing in on five zip codes in the heart of America, with a new case of covid-19 is Latino. Where taking off days from work is not an option. Going to the hospital not and fear of immigration enforcement ever present. My mom was going to stay in the hospital and that she could die. That was my biggest fear. For many immigrant workers, one donation can mean everything. Following a non-profit advocate dispensing some much-needed relief. So we're going to give her her check and hopefully that will help. Plus, an actor giving back to the community. You are thinking covid is going to be equal to everybody, but it's not. Always to the communities that have to work. And we, Latin and black people are the biggest working class in In is a special edition of fight line. Pandemic, a nation divided. I still don't think it is real. On the south side of Chicago, two weeks after testing positive for covid-19, Ms. Ramirez can't help but wonder why. When it started I thought I wondered if I was going to go out to the stores, my job, but I never expected that I would get it inside my house. Victim of her own home. The apartment she shares with her parents and two younger siblings, sheltering in place in a household full of essential workers only makes things worse. She works at an Amazon warehouse, her dad at a meat packing plant. I felt helpless in a sense, because if I knew if one of us got it we were all going to be exposed. Ramirez thinks her dad is the one who brought it home. He got infected and got in contact with one of the people who tested positive. For her mother, first came back pain, then body aches and fever. E-stephanie rushed her mother to the hospital. She could die, that was my biggest fear. The Ramirez family like so many neighbors, know this is the risk they have to take in order to bring food to the table. Chicago, the city that came back from the ashes more than a century ago now finding its foot being amidst another tragedy. First covid-19 ravaged its black community. Chicago's African-Americans accounted for over half of our cases. Now taking hold of another Face of covid in Chicago is turning into Latino. Why do you think that is? Latinos are a big part of the backbone of the economy. Almost half of all those infected in the state are Latino. The majority of positive cases can be narrowed down to these five zip codes, all in cook county, outlining what's known as the heart of the Latino immigrant community in the You walk into the little village and you feel like you're in a different country at times even. In these black and brown neighborhoods, working from home isn't an option. Many here are essential workers. Some undocumented. The community chronically underserved and often ignored. Disparities were obvious for years. Having a pandemic like this has only exacerbated the issue. The death toll in this county, more than 3,000. Painful but no surprise to those who live here. The statistic laying bare the divide these communities have felt between those with privilege and those like them. Keeping yourself healthy is a privilege. And it's a privilege that a lot of our communities don't have. Inside many of these homes, there's a multi generational family. Close in kinship, even tighter in space. This is our dinner table. My brother and sister use this to take their online classes and do their homework. For the ramirezes, the moment they started feeling symptoms, there was nothing they could do. This is my room where I spent most of the quarantine here. I heard that you had to isolate from everybody, like stay in one room, but I knew that it was not going to be possible for us, because we use everything, like the same bathroom. To them, it was clear, they'd all fallen victim to the virus. But they say the economic side effects is what worried them more. A mixed status family. Some, U.S. Citizens, others in the process of seeking residency. None eligible for stimulus relief, all out of work. A medical bill would mean sacrificing their savings. My parents kind of think twice about going to an emergency room or going to get checked by a doctor. Which means many are waiting until their symptoms are severe before even getting tested. When it did come back positive, I was like, oh, it's real. Frustrated by the lack of resources, community activists are taking matters into their own hands. In little village, an army of sorts, readying for the day. Lines begin to gather outside. We want to try to make sure the individuals -- Jerome Montgomery runs project vita, a fixture in the community for years, their focus is usually on HIV and AIDS, but several weeks ago they pivoted to covid-19 to bring much-needed testing to this community. We wanted to bring more services into the community because we knew the pandemic was impacting the Latino and African-American communities. He jointed forces with another leader. We wanted to see an individual regardless of their documentation status or act to pay. That's one reason why the clinic is tucked away in a quiet corner of town. It helps remove some of the stigma and the fear. 35-40 patients at this time. Drew Guzman is one of the doctors here. One of the things that was salient to me was seeing a lot of families come in getting tested after having a relative pass away, and that's something that has kind of stuck with me. Typically, more than 50% of the clinic's patients test positive. More than 80% come in without insurance. I don't think people understand the true public health issue that it is. If we're unable to provide services or care to those, it will get to the less-poputed areas. After every positive result. A team conducts contact tracing, tracking down all those who may have come in contact with the infected person. As long as the lines keep forming Jerome and his colleagues will keep working. I'm here at 6:00 in the morning and leave at 11:00 at night. We have amazing people on the front lines, doctors and nurses, they give you hope, but we still have a long way to go. This thing is taking out entire families. It's also a fact that when you're poor you can't eat very well. When you're poor, you may not have access to medications to make you feel better. Physical distancing is a privilege and keeping yourself healthy is a privilege. Dr. Dell Rios is an er doctor at the university of Illinois hospital. I just finished my shift and every case was a covid-19 case. The number of positive cases is twice and sometimes even three times the number of positive cases that we're seeing in white, more afluant neighborhoods. So where you live matters. Absolutely. You have to put all these layers of personal protection equipment. Dr. Dell Rios stands out in the field of medicine where less than 6% of all doctors are Latino. When you look into the eyes of some of these patients, are you seeing yourself and your history? It's unnerving to see that I'm seeing more and more people walking in that look like, you know, that remind me of my mom. ? She is part of the Illinois Latino covid-19 project. We're here not because of covid but decades of structural racism that have built up to this. When a person of color walks into a hospital are they already stepping in at a disadvantage? There are multiple studies that have demonstrated that when you're a person of color, you are more likely to be triaged as less-urgent for similar illnesses as a person who is we know patients in pain that are black and brown are often not treated with the same amount of pain medication that people who are white. And when you compound that with the language barrier that Latinos have, and that problem even becomes amplified further. What's the lesson in all of this for us as a society? You're only as healthy as the most vulnerable members of the society. After two weeks, estephaniea and her family have recovered from the virus. I knew that we going to make it through. I knew I had to put my health But now they are going back to work and know they are risking it again. What I like to have back to normal is having a cure for the disease and also having a vaccine for it, to feel safe that I won't get infected again or my family. And coming up next, a helping

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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