PEABODY — One out of every 468 Essex County residents died as a result of COVID-19 in 2020, one of the highest percentages of deaths in the state, the latest numbers show. 

And one of the single highest numbers of deaths from the virus occurred in Peabody.

With hard-hit urban and diverse communities such as Lynn, one of the first cities to be designated as a "hot spot" earlier this year, and Lawrence, the figures aren't unexpected. A total of 1,683 people had died in Essex County due to COVID-19 as of Wednesday, state officials reported. 

That's the second highest death toll by county in Massachusetts, which lost more than 12,000 residents in total.

The state's most populous county, Middlesex, reported 2,718 deaths. Worcester County reported 1,506 deaths. Suffolk reported 1,369 deaths. 

According to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, Peabody had the highest death toll from the virus, with 232 deaths as of Thursday. 

That total is the highest in Essex County. 

Nationally, one in 1,000 Americans had died as a result of the pandemic by December. It was a figure that startled some. 

In Peabody, with a population of around 53,000, that figure is about 1 in 228. 

The city is home to five nursing homes, where both residents and workers have contracted the virus. The mayor, Ted Bettencourt, is recovering from it. 

Some of the county's largest cities have seen fewer deaths from the virus, both in numbers and as a percentage of the population. 

Lawrence, with a population of 80,000, had 196 deaths and Lynn, with 95,000 residents, had 155 as of Thursday, according to the DPH spreadsheet. Haverhill showed 173 deaths. 

On the North Shore, Danvers and Beverly saw the next highest totals after Peabody. Danvers has had 133 deaths and Beverly has had 139 deaths. Marblehead had 56 deaths, Topsfield had 38 deaths, Gloucester had 31 deaths, Ipswich had six and Manchester and Essex had fewer than five. 

Most, though not all, of the deaths have occurred among older populations and those in long-term care facilities — a fact that may be behind higher totals in communities such as Danvers and Beverly, which have long term care facilities. 

In Rockport, where 19 residents have died, 13 deaths occurred at Den-Mar Health & Rehabilitation Center between the start of the pandemic and early May. No one at Den-Mar has tested positive for the virus since May, according to Chief Executive Officer Steven Vera. Of Gloucester's 31 deaths, 16 occurred at Gloucester Healthcare on Washington Street.

The way deaths have been reported to the public has changed. Early in the pandemic, the DPH included cumulative totals by community. Since this summer, however, the totals being reported were on a county-by-county basis. 

Some, though not all, communities were reporting cumulative deaths to residents on their websites or in emails. 

Some have suggested that reporting a total number of deaths without context, such as an outbreak at a long-term care facility, paints a misleading portrait of the impact of the virus on a particular community, particularly one with multiple nursing homes or a facility like a jail. 

Some communities that report numbers also note whether the deaths were in a nursing home, however. 

Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, by email at jmanganis@gloucestertimes.com or on Twitter at @SNJulieManganis. 

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