NORTH CENTER — Social media has been swirling with rumors that more than a dozen people have died from the cold in Chicago in one night.
The rumors started spreading amid a cold snap that’s made it feel as cold as 50 degrees below zero in the city. Posts on Twitter, Facebook and other sites have claimed as many as 15 to 20 people died overnight due to the extreme cold.
While the rumors of mass deaths aren’t true, there have been a number of cold-related deaths this season. As of 5 p.m. Tuesday, the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office had recorded 20 such deaths throughout the entire county this winter.
The most recent cold-related death came Monday when a 39-year-old man died from heart disease with hypothermia as a contributing factor, according to the Medical Examiner’s Office.
No new cold-related deaths had been recorded as of noon Wednesday, a spokeswoman for the office said, though it’s possible more will be reported.
Still, this week’s bitter cold is dangerous. The National Weather Service has warned frostbite can occur in as little as five minutes during the coldest parts of the arctic blast, and hypothermia and death are possible under these conditions.
For those looking to make a difference and help those impacted by the cold, here’s what you can do:
- Direct people who are homeless or in need of help to one of the dozens of warming centers in the city. Click here for a full list of city-run centers. The Chicago Park District is also using more than 60 field houses as warming centers. Click here for a list of those spots.
- Lyft is offering free rides to warming centers when you use the code CHIJAYDEN19. The code is valid for two rides up to $25 each until 11:59 p.m. Friday and can be used to help send a person to a warming center.
- Healthy Hood in Pilsen is turning into a warming center until Thursday morning to help people in need, and area restaurants are donating meals to help those who go by the studio.
- Common Pantry, 3744 N. Damen Ave. in North Center, is offering free meals and shelter to people impacted by the cold.
- If you see a person in need with a pet, you can direct them to 1904 N. Milwaukee Ave., which is providing food, shelter and supplies to people and dogs.
- You can check on people who are homeless when you see them and ask if they need help getting food or making their way to a shelter or warming center.
- You can collect supplies like blankets and winter clothing for people in need. Some Chicagoans have been going directly to communities in need to share supplies, but several local shelters and churches are also taking in donations to be distributed. This website maintains a list of shelters you can contact to see if you can drop off supplies.
The extreme cold is expected to end Thursday afternoon, and the weather will be back to the 40s this weekend.