Jeramey Jannene

Alderman Asks Hospital for Free Testing

COVID-19 hits black population hard, many cases within a mile of St. Joseph Hospital.

By - Mar 25th, 2020 12:37 pm
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COVID-19 Case Map and St. Joseph Hospital. Map from Milwaukee County COVID-19 Dashboard.

COVID-19 Case Map and St. Joseph Hospital. Map from Milwaukee County COVID-19 Dashboard.

Alderman Khalif Rainey represents the greatest concentration of COVID-19 cases in Wisconsin. His district, which includes Sherman Park and Century City, also has one of the highest poverty rates of any of the city’s 15 districts.

“This pandemic cannot — must not — become a death sentence for the poor and uninsured,” wrote Rainey in a letter to Ascension President and CEO Joseph Impicciche.

The letter, dated March 16th, called on Ascension to offer free COVID-19 testing at its St. Joseph Hospital.

“This hospital is the only source of medical care for many of my own constituents and serves some of Milwaukee’s poorest residents – many of whom lack adequate insurance,” wrote Rainey.

Rainey’s letter came in response to Advocate Aurora Health Care‘s announcement on March 12th that it would not immediately bill patients for COVID-19 testing and treatment. The healthcare network, which operates hospitals in Illinois and Wisconsin, is still billing insurers and could bill patients at a later date. The nearest Advocate Aurora hospital to Rainey’s district is Aurora Sinai Medical Center, located miles to the east, just outside of Downtown.

Rainey’s letter was sent last Monday, before Milwaukee County launched an interactive mapping tool that allows the public to see the location of COVID-19 cases.

With the mapping tool, it’s now clear that more than 10 percent of the city’s residents that have tested positive for COVID-19 live within a mile of the front door of St. Joseph Hospital.

As of Wednesday morning, there are 231 known cases of COVID-19 in the city. Twenty-two of the cases are located in the four census tracts located immediately northeast of Ascension’s St. Joseph Hospital at 5000 W. Chambers St. Nine more cases are located immediately to the west, just outside of Rainey’s district.

Based on 2011 redistricting data, over 85 percent of residents in the 7th Aldermanic District represented by Rainey identify as black.

Health Commissioner Jeanette Kowalik, like Rainey an African American, has repeatedly raised the concern that the coronavirus is having a disparate racial impact even though African Americans are no more susceptible to the disease than others. “The majority of the cases in the City of Milwaukee are on the north side of town, primarily African-Americans,” said Kowalik Tuesday afternoon. She said the city is working on outreach strategies to encourage people to practice social distancing, maintaining a distance of at least six feet from others, and encouraging them to stay home.

If public health officials aren’t able to get an outbreak under control on the city’s North Side, the death toll from COVID-19 could have a stark racial disparity. The three deaths recorded in Milwaukee related to COVID-19 to date have all been African American males.

March 25th Data Mapped

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