PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Tri-County area health leaders say the widespread Omicron variant is showing no signs of slowing down.
Monica Hendrickson, Public Health Administrator for the Peoria City/County Health Department, said the area’s daily COVID-19 case count is reaching record highs.
She said the tri-county area is averaging 844 new cases each day, and Peoria County alone averages 380.
“Since March 16th of 2020, this is the highest daily increases that we are seeing in our tri-county,” Hendrickson said.
Hendrickson said these numbers aren’t even counting the number of positive at-home COVID-19 tests and Peoria, Tazewell, and Woodford Counties are all seeing positivity rates above 20% with Peoria County having a positivity rate of 27.3%.
Hendrickson said because the virus is so widespread, it’s difficult to pinpoint where exactly the outbreaks are originating from, but she did say health officials are still seeing the same trends of high outbreaks occurring in gatherings and among the unvaccinated population.
She acknowledged that the surge continues to the local healthcare system as OSF St. Francis Medical Center and UnityPoint Health – Central Illinois and report 35 ICU beds and 200 non-ICU beds currently in use.
Hendrickson said it’s important to recognize that eventually “we are going to be living with COVID-19.” But she said we can’t live it at the point where hospital systems are flooded to capacity.
“These are unnecessary utilization of our hospitals, so again, we’re not necessarily accessing our healthcare services at full capacity,” Hendrickson said. “We’re not being able to take care of the other plethora of health issues that might arise — whether they’re emergent or things that people need for quality of life measure too.”
She said the “light at the end of the tunnel” would be seeing starting to see hospitalizations come down.
Chris Setti, CEO of the Greater Peoria Economic Development Council, said the current surge is also impacting the local business community. He said it’s exacerbating an already problematic labor shortage.
“For the last year or so, we’ve seen employers struggling to find employees and what’s happening is that they employees that they have are getting sick and not being able to be at work,” Setti said.
He said the situation is unfortunate but there are things the public can do to help ease the process.
“I think employers can continue to advocate for vaccines within their employees,” Setti said. “I think that patrons and customers can wear masks. Do things to help slow the spread.”