Coronavirus or COVID-19 has affected close to 55 million and caused over 1 million deaths globally. The COVID-19 pandemic has led to significant detrimental effects on the health, well-being, and lives of people around the globe.
As of late February, it became increasingly clear that COVID-19 was spreading in different places in the United States and something had to be done to prepare the community.
On March 1st, CIOGC and MAS Public Affairs in Chicago launched an awareness campaign in mosques, schools, and community centers.
We quickly designed, printed, and distributed educational slides and standing banners educating the community on measures people can take to protect themselves and others.
We also shared flyers and talking points with our Imams and community leaders outlining measures organizations and people can take to limit the spread of the virus. I am confident that our early actions saved lives.
On March 11th, we invited community leaders and heads of community organizations and schools to a webinar on the 15th to discuss how to protect community members from the coronavirus.
More COVID-19 cases and related deaths reported in different parts of the country and the world. We envisioned the huge impact this pandemic would have on all aspects of lives in our communities. The Council realized that massive and well-coordinated efforts are required. CIOGC as an umbrella and coordinating organization was uniquely suited to lead those efforts.
We all agreed that a Taskforce to focus on was urgently needed COVID-19 to organize our community and prevent our masajid from becoming hotpots for the spread of the virus.
There was a lot of anxiety and confusion in the beginning and things were moving fast. I still remember… It was the 2nd week of March and there was a lot of uncertainty.
CIOGC leadership stepped up driven by two main goals: protecting our communities and minimizing the impact of COVID-19 on them.
During the 2nd week of March, CIOGC called for and convened virtual emergency meetings for community leaders, Imams, and health professionals to collectively decide on how to guide the community.
On March 12, the CIOGC Joint COVID-19 taskforce was launched and a call recruiting volunteers was distributed online and via email and social media.
After a late emergency meeting of Imams and community leaders on March 12, CIOGC issued a statement calling for mosques, community centers, and schools to take precautionary measures and strongly recommended the cancellation of all congregational Friday prayers.
That decision was difficult but necessary. I really commend CIOGC for leading, working with community leaders taking swift actions to protect the community and minimize the spread of the disease.
After the Stay at Home order was declared in IL and went effect on March 21st, our attention quickly shifted to not only educating the community about the virus but to address the huge emerging needs of community members and organizations.
Although the taskforce started with a few members and organizations, we were overwhelmed by the outpouring of support we received from our communities.
The taskforce expanded to include over 100 organizations and individuals. Individuals from backgrounds including but limited to health-related fields, accounting, and project management wanted to serve.
Leaders of organizations and individual volunteers responded to the call to serve and join the CIOGC COVID-19 taskforce.
This task force consists of CIOGC member organizations, local and national relief agencies, medical and dental associations, and local community service groups.
The services coordinated by the CIOGC Task Force also expanded to include telehealth, COVID-19 related-support, mental health counselling and support, tele dental care, food distribution to needy families, emergency monetary assistance, and assistance with applications for unemployment benefits.
To help streamline all of these services and to facilitate the community’s access to these services, a helpline was established and launched on March 25th.
The establishment of the hotline coordinated by the CIOGC COVID-19 Taskforce was a great achievement that demonstrated in actions how the community came together to face this pandemic.
It was a wonderful show of unity. It was an outstanding service. Basically, community members dial one number and access to a wide variety of services offered by many organizations.
Whether you were hungry, sick, anxious, uninsured, feeling an agonizing dental pain, feeling helpless, needed financial support or just needed some assistance completing an unemployment benefits application, you would just dial one number and help would be on the way.
Hundreds of people utilized these services, Muslims and non-Muslims alike. No questions asked.
Faced with the shortages of masks in the early days of the pandemic, the Taskforce distributed over 10,000 masks to the elderly and vulnerable, to hospitals, to the homeless, and to mosques for their essential workers, especially in underserved communities.
Trying to address the evolving needs of the community, since the early days of the pandemic, we have coordinated and conducted over 10 webinars covering a variety of topics such as COVID-19 prevention, mental health, and protecting workers’ rights during the pandemic. Hundreds of people across the area joined these webinars.
We also held webinars to help ensure the sustainability of community organizations which has experienced significant loss of revenue during the pandemic.
When the Restore Illinois Plan was published, the CIOGC Taskforce invited the Presidents of Islamic organizations, Imams, health professionals, and representatives of facilities management to meet on May 9th to discuss applicable guidelines for mosques.
Over a series of meetings and many hours of work, a reopening plan was finalized and shared with Muslim organization on May 30th.
The Joint Taskforce reopening plan provided guidance on how our mosques can prepare for reopening and how to gradually reopen in a safe, organized, and responsible manner while adhering to local and national guidelines.
Our top priorities have always been and still are to protect our communities and ensure that our mosques do not become hot spots for the spread of COVID-19.
I am very proud of our community leaders, Imams, and health experts who worked tirelessly under the leadership of CIOGC and provided leadership to our community during a time of need.
I can say with confidence that the initiatives and services coordinated and led by the CIOGC task force have benefited thousands of people across the area, especially, segments of the Chicagoland community that are often underserved including but not limited to the uninsured, the unemployed, and the undocumented.
This effort led by CIOGC has been an outstanding effort. CIOGC moved quickly, in an efficient and comprehensive manner. It has been an example showing the power and the unity of the community. It is saving lives in action led by CIOGC. Our deep gratitude goes to the many professionals and volunteers who contributed to the Taskforce efforts.