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Homicides and opioid overdose deaths rose in Cook County last year, COVID-19 deaths decreased but still totaled nearly 4,500

The Cook County medical examiner’s office said it reviewed 12,618 cases last year, second only to the 16,047 cases it handled in 2020, the highest in the office’s history. 

Homicides and opioid overdose deaths rose in Cook County last year, and while deaths from COVID-19 decreased, they still comprised more than a third of the cases handled by the Cook County medical examiner’s office.

The office said it reviewed a total of 12,618 cases last year, second only to the 16,047 cases it handled in 2020, the highest number in the office’s history.

Before the pandemic, the office received about 6,200 cases a year. COVID-19 claimed more than 8,000 lives in 2020 and at least 4,497 last year, according to preliminary information released by the office.

At least 1,087 people were victims of homicides in Cook County last year, the first time the office has seen more than a thousand homicides since 1994. At least 836 of them were killed in Chicago.

Black people were the victims in 80% of the homicides and Latinos more than 14%. Twelve were under the age of 10, 86 under the age of 18.

Opioid overdose deaths appear to have risen sharply. There were at least 1,499 confirmed overdose deaths last year, but the office said that number could pass 2,000 once tests are completed on 600 to 700 cases.

Last year’s total was 1,840, the year before that, 1,295.

There was a slight rise in suicide last year, according to the office: At least 482, according to preliminary data, compared to 453 in 2020 and 479 in 2019.