CHICAGO (CBS) — After a CBS 2 Investigation into Cook County not issuing death certificates and families learning they wouldn’t get one because they aren’t considered essential, the county clerk’s office now says it’s going to look into the problem.
After CBS 2’s story last night, Commissioner Sean Morrison brought the issue to the Cook County Board of Commissioners Thursday afternoon. And the Clerk’s Office is promising an update.
Losing a loved one during COVID-19 is hard enough. Wendy Habel tried to obtain death certificate. It should have been the easy part.
“It should have been very easy,” said Habel.
But in Cook County death certificates are “delayed until further notice” even though dozens of other states and counties that use the VitalChek system haven’t skipped a beat sending them out.
At Thursday’s Cook County Board Meeting, Commissioner Sean Morrison (17th) said this is embarrassing.
“Can you tell me if this is accurate and what we should be doing about this?” he asked.
The Clerk’s Office has a total staff of 265 people, and no one has been furloughed. A representative said the certificates have to be printed on customized security paper, which limits their ability to provide these records from home.
“Your (CBS 2) reports Wednesday, your investigation where you have found other government bodies that are able to produce these and not having any problem, it’s kind of embarrassing that Cook County, yet again, is stumbling in an area like that especially at a time when it’s desperately needed.”
But the vital records representative who should have been on the call Thursday to answer questions wasn’t for some reason.
Later in the meeting, a representative said they’re working on an emergency plan to issue records and pledged to respond to these questions.
“I mean these are questions I need to know. If we’re not staffing vital records, we really need to start doing that immediately,” Morrison said.
Ironically enough, the agenda item they were talking about was for about $38,000 dollars in security paper to print these deaths certificates that right now aren’t being printed.
The agenda item was approved. The clerk’s office currently has a budget of more than $45 million.