County Overdose Deaths Up 50% in 2020
Medical Examiner warns current pace would result in 640 deaths in 2020.
Milwaukee County is on pace to smash a record it doesn’t want to break. The number of deaths from drug overdoses could exceed the previous high by over 50 percent.
The 640 death estimate is up from an estimate of 500 deaths in February.
And that estimate is based on just this year’s surge, said Karen Domagalski, operations manager at the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner’s Office. “This has just been 2020.”
Another steadily increasing trend is overdose deaths from cocaine alone or in combination with other drugs. This trend began in 2017. Prior to that year, there were on average less than 100 cocaine overdoses in the county.
Then, starting in 2017, “those numbers started to escalate,” said Domagalski. In 2018, there were 185 deaths from cocaine use alone or with other drugs, then in 2019 the death toll was 180.
Domagalski said the office is very busy right now because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but that doesn’t mean they’re getting a reprieve from everything else. “Nothing else is really slowing down,” said Domagalski. Deaths from car crashes, homicides and overdoses continue unabated.
The Medical Examiner’s office has divided the staff into three teams to limit potential exposure to COVID-19. Out of caution, Domagalski said they are treating the illness as infectious even in death.
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