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Cook County reaches 11,000 COVID-19 deaths; officials urge vaccination

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and county health officials urge residents to get vaccinated in hyperlocal vaccine approach as COVID-19 cases increased by 30% since June 26.

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and county health officials hold a press conference outside the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office to mark the 11,000th COVID-19 death.
Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and county health officials announced Wednesday that the county had recorded its 11,000th COVID-19 death.
Brian Rich/Sun-Times

A 31-year-old African American man from Austin and a 28-year-old Latino man from Little Village died from COVID-19 Tuesday night, marking 11,000 deaths in Cook County since the start of the pandemic.

“If we do not act urgently, we will see hospitals in Cook County overwhelmed with sick and dying patients, including children who are not yet able to get vaccinated,” said Dr. Sharon Welbel, the county’s director of infection control and hospital epidemiology. “Every day, hospitals across the country are admitting almost exclusively unvaccinated patients into their COVID-19 intensive care units.”

County health officials said the Delta variant is highly contagious and possibly more virulent as the predominant strain of the COVID-19 virus. Hospitalizations sharply increased in July, with nightly hospitalization nearly tripling statewide, according to Illinois Department of Public Health data. However, available vaccines reduce hospitalization by almost 94%, Welbel said.

Black and Brown communities continue to be affected disproportionately. Overall, 29% of deaths came from the Black community, but the month of July saw that number reach 46%. Latinos saw a jump, too, as they made up 22% of overall deaths but 25% in July.

The CDC reports 99% of current national COVID-19 deaths are among unvaccinated people. In Cook County, COVID-19 cases increased by 30% since June 26.

As a result, county and health officials are urging residents to get vaccinated at local community health centers and weekly community events the county holds.

“There’s a lot of misinformation and sort of pernicious narratives in social media that imply that we’re putting chips in people and just completely made up stuff,” Preckwinkle said. “And I would ask that people listen to the folks whose job it is to help us take care of ourselves, and that’s our physicians, our public health specialists, our epidemiologists, who’ve made it quite clear that it’s important to be vaccinated and, even if you are vaccinated, to keep your mask on.”

Roughly 53.5% of Cook County residents are fully vaccinated.

Dr. Kiran Joshi, Cook County Department of Public Health co-lead and senior medical officer, urged everyone over the age of 2 to wear masks in indoor public spaces, regardless of vaccination status. The same goes for schools as they return to in-person instruction this month, Joshi said.

Find a vaccine location or learn more about case counts on Cook County’s website, myshotcookcounty.com.