Illinois sees nearly 5,000 more non-Covid deaths than the state’s yearly average for all lives lost

WGN Investigates

CHICAGO — Lost in the drumbeat of daily updates on the number of deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic is a wider perspective on the total number of lives lost this year.

The latest state data which tracks the number of “excess deaths” in 2020 shows there have been more than 17,000 deaths above the yearly average reported in Illinois.  

That’s roughly equivalent to losing the entire population of west suburban Hinsdale.

In addition to about 12,000 deaths connected to COVID-19, the state has seen thousands of deaths beyond the average that are not directly attributed to the disease.

They are not statistics, they were husbands and wives, fathers, mothers, sons and daughters.

Northwestern’s Dr. Sadiya Khan said about 1 in 11 people who are initially hospitalized with COVID-19 are re-hospitalized, according to the CDC.

“So other complications like heart attack, heart failure, lung disease could be contributing to these outcomes,” Khan said. “So it’s not directly related to the infection but it’s related to problems the infections may have caused.” 

In October, Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said although some could have been undiagnosed COVID-19 deaths, they’re still trying to make sense of the additional lives lost.

“Some of them will be people who may have, because of the devastation of this traumatic event we’re going through, overdosed,” Ezike said. “We know overdoses have increased.  Some may not be seeking care because of Covid.”

For months, health experts have pleaded with people to continue seeking testing and treatment for all medical issues after evidence emerged people were dying while avoiding hospitals for fear of contracting COVID-19.

Not unexpectedly, a national CDC study found the highest number of excess deaths were among older Americans. But the report also noted 25-44 year-olds had the largest percentage increase in excess deaths.

“It may be related to the pandemic itself or it may be related to not getting appropriate care in the spring or summer or even now.  It may be related to different stress people are now facing,” Khan said.

Illinois has the sixth highest number of excess deaths in the nation. 

They do tend to track with surges in the virus, so residents should brace for a difficult and deadly winter of increased deaths, despite the fact not all are currently being classified as “Covid deaths.”

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