CHICAGO — Imagine the entire United Center void of fans — every seat in that hollowed-out hall empty. That’s 23,000 people gone. Now you can visualize how many additional lives were lost in Illinois last year compared to what is typical.
The number of people who die each year remains fairly consistent. Numbers above that average are referred to as “excess deaths” and they soared during the pandemic; but an analysis of state death data by WGN Investigates shows COVID-19 was not the only culprit. Twenty-seven percent of Illinois’ 22,933 “excess deaths” last year were not classified as Covid-related.
“We know a number of people had bad outcomes —death outcomes — because of Covid but they weren’t related to Covid,” Dr. Emily Landon, an infectious disease expert at the University of Chicago Medicine, said.
Experts said some of the excess deaths last year may have been un-tested Covid-deaths early in the pandemic. There’s also concern many chronic conditions or new ailments may have gone undiagnosed and treated as hospitals filled and elective surgeries were cancelled in the early months of the pandemic leading to additional deaths in the months that followed.
There is a bright spot in the death data as we rounded the corner into 2021.