Cook County has recorded its 13,000th coronavirus death, officials said Wednesday, calling it a "grim milestone" that comes as trailers are once again being deployed to hospitals.
Officials, citing data from the Cook County Medical Examiner's office, noted that 1,000 deaths were recorded in the last six weeks alone. Previously, it took more than three months for the county to grow from 11,000 deaths to 12,000.
"The [medical examiner's office] confirmed 254 COVID-19 deaths for the week of Dec. 27, 2021. Those are the highest totals the MEO has seen since December of 2020, months before the COVID-19 vaccine was widely available to residents," the county said in a release.
In response, the county's Department of Emergency Management and Regional Security has started once again deploying trailers to area hospitals "to help decompress their morgues if necessary."
Of the county's 13,000 deaths, nearly half have been reported in Chicago.
More than 80% of the deaths occurred in people over the age of 60, with the oldest Cook County COVID-19 death at 109 years old. The youngest, however, was just 9 months old.
The news comes amid the first week of a new countywide vaccine mandate, requiring proof of vaccination for those looking to dine at restaurants, drink at bars, work out in gyms and more.
It also comes amid a surge in omicron cases nationwide.
Nearly one-in-four reported COVID tests in the city of Chicago are coming back with positive results, continuing a rapid increase in positivity rates in the city.
According to the latest information from the Chicago Department of Public Health, the city’s positivity rate as of Dec. 30, the last date for which data is available for due to lag time and other factors, stands at 23.6%, the highest rate reported since May 7, 2020.
That number represents a rapid increase in the city’s positivity rate in the last month. On Dec. 7, the positivity rate in the city stood at 3.9%, and since that date it has increased every day, according to officials.
Dr. Allison Arwady, commissioner of CDPH, says that part of the increase in positivity rates has come because of the influx of at-home testing that has been performed, with those numbers not included in test results because they aren’t being sent to state-run laboratories.
On Dec. 7, the city was averaging 958 new cases of COVID per 100,000 residents, and that number has increased by nearly 380%, rising to 4,591 new cases of COVID per 100,000 residents as of Dec. 30.
These numbers come as testing rates have fallen in the city. According to CDPH data, an average of 23,675 test results are being returned to laboratories each day over the last week, a decrease of 41% from a week ago.
Still, Arwady says the city's current average of between eight and nine deaths per day remains "much lower than we've seen earlier in the pandemic" but still marks an increase from the two to three deaths per day the city was seeing a few months ago. She added that much of the city's recent rise in deaths have been in unvaccinated Chicagoans.