Health leaders say tri-county area on a good path to follow Illinois into “bridge phase”


PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — The tri-county area received encouraging news during Thursday’s weekly health press conference at the Peoria City/County Health Department.

The area is seeing declining daily COVID-19 cases, fewer COVID hospitalizations, and improving ICU bed capacity.

“We are trending in the right direction regarding new cases in the tri-county,” Monica Hendrickson, Public Health Administrator for the Peoria City/County Health Department, said. “Our current 7-day and 14-day averages now sit at 125 and 141 cases respectively. That is down from the previous week where we were at 157 and 178 cases.”

Hendrickson also said the area’s positivity rate has gone down and is sitting closer to 5%.

This news coming shortly after Governor J.B. Pritzker announced Friday, May 14th as the date Illinois is expected to enter the “bridge” phase of the state’s Restore Illinois plan.

It’s a move Hendrickson said she believes the area is for but reminded the public it’s not a ticket to get complacent.

“It’s something that we’ve been looking forward to, but it doesn’t mean the pandemic is over, it just means we’re one step closer to getting back to some type of normalcy,” Hendrickson said.

She said although there is light on the horizon, the public still needs to continue following safety guidelines and protocols.

Hendrickson is also reminding the public that not everyone is vaccinated. She said about 33.8% of the tri-county area is fully vaccinated and said the best way to get out of the COVID-19 standstill and stop new variants is to get the vaccine.

“Really there is no excuse to not get a vaccine,” Hendrickson said. “It’s readily available and it does a lot and we’ve seen the impacts of it with our death rates and even the severity of our illnesses.”

Both Hendrickson and Dr. Michael Leonardi, a perinatologist with OSF HealthCare, acknowledged that vaccine hesitancy still exists and addressed concerns pregnant and breastfeeding women may have about getting the vaccine.

“There is not any increase in adverse symptoms related to the vaccine in pregnancy compared to non-pregnant patients,” Leonardi said. “And there’s not any increase in risk in risk for adverse pregnancy outcome.”

Dr. Leonardi said COVID is more dangerous than concerns people may have about the vaccine. He said pregnancy is already a high-risk state and contracting COVID can exacerbate the condition.

He said vaccinated women produce antibodies that can protect their child even after the delivery. he said the best way to protect the infant is to protect the mother.

“For women who choose not to be vaccinated during pregnancy or who don’t have access to vaccine it is equally important to get vaccinated while breast-feeding,” Leonardi said. “Because the mom then makes antibodies that are then created in breast milk and those antibodies help protect the infant.”

Dr. Leonardi said concerned women should also speak with their physicians and seek reputable sources to make an informed decision.

Hendrickson said vaccine accessibility will be playing a big part in getting more people the shot and the health leaders are working to remove these barriers by offering vaccine clinics throughout the area.

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