Looking at federal estimates of excess deaths — how many more people died than is usually expected — Illinois ranked among the 10 worst states (including the District of Columbia) for the 10-month period from March through December.
In Illinois, nearly 111,000 people died from March 1 through Jan. 2, as tallied on a weekly basis by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That’s 27% higher than the average for 2015 through 2019, which was about 87,000 deaths for the same 44-week period.
The hardest hit may not be a surprise — New York — because of the massive number of deaths there during the first wave of COVID-19. Even with generally milder stretches later in 2020, New York state saw an increase in deaths of nearly 37% during the last 10 months of 2020.
The data suggests it’s because Illinois, unlike most places, suffered not one but two significant waves, and deaths were still higher than normal in between. And then came the fall, when Illinois saw an even deadlier wave, with death figures from mid-November to mid-December hovering between 50% to 60% more deaths than average. This surge was broader, across the entire state
Thanks to federal money for COVID-19 relief, families of one million children in Illinois will be getting debit cards worth several hundred dollars in the mail this month to help them buy food.
Sophie Milam, senior director of public policy for the Greater Chicago Food Depository, said that the debit cards, which are now in the mail, will be a surprise to most people. There is a risk that some people will throw the unmarked envelopes with the debit cards in them away.
There was no application process for the program. The debit cards are being mailed automatically to any school child who is part of Illinois’ free and reduced lunch program.
“Families can use the debit cards at any grocery store or retail store that takes LINK,” Milam said. “Families can choose whatever groceries they want that makes sense for their family.”
As Milam and her colleagues at the Food Depository see it, the pandemic has created a hunger crisis in Illinois. Because of COVID-19, the number of families with children who are food insecure has tripled.
Before the pandemic, 13% of Illinois children lived in homes where there was not enough food. Since COVID-19 hit, food pantries have seen a 44% increase in need, with many new families coming in for food.