Cook County sees record numbers of opioid, gun deaths in 2020
The Cook County medical examiner's office handled record numbers of opioid deaths and gun-related homicides in 2020, as well as a record number of total cases because of the addition of COVID-19-related deaths.
The office handled 16,049 cases, far exceeding its previous record of 10,654 set in 1977, according to a news release. The county's 8,192 COVID-19 infection deaths accounted for more than half of the 2020 caseload.
The office handles approximately 6,200 deaths in an average year. In 2019, the office had 6,274 cases.
Nearly 58% of all cases handled in 2020 involved Black and Latino people. These communities also make up close to half the county's confirmed coronavirus deaths.
The county has already confirmed 1,599 opioid overdose deaths, and the office anticipates that approximately 450 to 500 of its pending cases will be due to opioid toxicity, putting the final number for 2020 above 2,000.
In 2019, Cook County confirmed 1,277 opioid overdose deaths. At that time, it was the highest total the county had ever seen. Of the 2020 confirmed cases, close to half involved Black people.
The office handled 875 gun-related homicides, breaking the previous record of 838 set in 1994. The office handled a total of 970 homicides, a jump of more than than 40% from 2019's total of 675. Blacks were the victims of 78% of homicides and Latinos accounted for more than 16% of homicide deaths. 89% of homicide deaths involved males.
Seventy homicide deaths were under 18; 22 were under the age of 10. The majority (722) of homicides were in Chicago. The last time Cook County saw more than 970 homicides was in 1996.
While overall suicide rates have not increased, the rate of suicide in the Black community increased dramatically in 2020. Blacks accounted for 94 of the 432 suicides in 2020. That's a 65% increase over 2019, which saw 57 suicides in the Black community.