Medical Examiner confirms grim milestone as County experiences surge from Delta variant
President Preckwinkle joined representatives from the County’s Medical Examiner’s Office (MEO), Cook County Health (CCH) and the County’s Department of Public Health (CCDPH) this morning to mark a grim pandemic milestone. The MEO confirmed the County’s 11,000th death due to COVID-19 infection last night, more than 16 months after the first fatal case of the virus was confirmed here.
The 10,999th death the County confirmed was a 31-year-old African American man from Chicago’s Austin neighborhood. The 11,000th case was a 28-year-old Latino man who resided in Little Village.
“Our deepest condolences go out to the loved ones of the 11,000 COVID victims in our community,” said Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. “This is a reminder that we are not out of the woods and must continue to take precautions and get vaccinated. No matter your age, no matter how healthy you are, you are susceptible to this virus. It can kill you. And it would most certainly leave devastated family and friends behind.”
Overall, just under 7% of all the County’s 11,000 COVID-19 deaths were in people under the age of 50, but in July that age group made up 18% of Cook County’s COVID deaths. The Black community makes up approximately 29% of overall COVID deaths in the County, but in July African Americans accounted for 46% of those deaths. Under 22% of COVID deaths during the course of the pandemic were in the County’s Latino population. In July Latinos made up more than 25% of COVID deaths.
“I remain extremely concerned by the COVID trends we are seeing in Cook County,” said Dr. Ponni Arunkumar, chief medical examiner for Cook County. “Eleven thousand deaths is 11,000 too many. Please get vaccinated. You could be saving your life. You could be saving the lives of your loved ones. You will make a difference.”
Since June 26, COVID cases have increased by 30% in Cook County and the positivity rate jumped from 0.7% to 3.18%. Illinois saw an overall 131% spike in COVID-19 cases in just the past two weeks. On Tuesday, the seven-day average of cases in Illinois topped 2,000 per day for the first time since May.
“The delta variant is significantly more contagious than the original strain of SARS-CoV-2 that causes COVID-19 and is now the predominant variant in the US. We are seeing extraordinary increases in cases, hospitalizations and deaths. This is extremely concerning to me as an infectious disease doctor,” said Dr. Sharon Welbel, CCH system director of infection control and hospital epidemiology. “Vaccination is the most effective intervention to decrease infection, hospitalization and death from this virus.”
That’s why CCDPH issued updated guidance on July 30, urging residents to wear masks indoors regardless of vaccination status.
“The pandemic is still with us and there is still much work to be done,” said Dr. Kiran Joshi, senior medical officer and co-lead of CCDPH. “We urge all individuals to mask in public indoor settings and get vaccinated. These strategies will help us end this surge and this pandemic.”
Approximately 53.5% of Cook County residents are fully vaccinated. CCH has provided nearly 875,000 vaccine doses since December and continues to offer vaccines at their community health centers in addition to holding events in communities throughout the County every week. The Pfizer vaccine is now available to anyone age 12 and older. The Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are approved for individuals age 18 and older.
“The Yale School of Public Health estimates that vaccination has saved more than 279,000 lives and prevented 1.25 million hospitalizations in the US. The vaccines work. They are safe. Nearly 192 million Americans have gotten vaccinated,” said CCH CEO Israel Rocha Jr. “If you have been taking a ‘wait and see approach’ to vaccination, I’m happy to tell you that your wait is over. The time is now to get your shot.”
To find a vaccine location in Cook County, visit www.MyShotCookCounty.com. For more information about case counts in suburban Cook County, visit ccdphcd.shinyapps.io/covid19/. To get data regarding COVID-19 deaths in Cook County, visit maps.cookcountyil.gov/medexamcovid19/.