COVID-19 cases increasing in the tri-county area, health leaders call cold weather a contributing factor

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PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — The entire state of Illinois is in high transmission of new COVID-19 cases and the tri-county area is no exception, according to local health leaders.

During Thursday’s weekly COVID-19 briefing, health officials said there have been 766 new COVID-19 cases in the tri-county area since last week.

There are also 930 people at home and isolating when last week there were 727.

“We’re not surprised by this increase, I think we are surprised by how quickly it happened,” Monica Hendrickson, Peoria City County’s Public Health Administrator, said.

Hendrickson said the tri-county area is now averaging 109 COVID-19 cases daily and Peoria County, alone, is averaging 52. She said the new cases are primarily among those who are unvaccinated.

She said the changing weather is playing a factor in the surge of infections.

“We are moving indoors and with that, we are getting into closer proximity,” Hendrickson said. “We can’t socially distance as easily and sadly we’ve stopped using our masking to its full capacity,”

As Thanksgiving gets closer, Hendrickson is encouraging all who are eligible, anyone 5-years-old and older, to get a COVID-19 vaccine, get a booster shot, and get tested if they feel sick in any way.

She said this is crucial for those vulnerable and unvaccinated populations.

“What we saw compared to cases that we had in the late Summer, early Fall, again we were able to do activities outdoors and have airflow and different things happen,” Hendrickson said. “As soon as the weather drops, we are inside and closer together.”

“So especially for our unvaccinated individuals, you are now at a higher risk than you were a few months ago just because of how close we are in proximity, again getting your vaccine is very important.”

Hendrickson said so far 53% of Peoria County is vaccinated and 9% of those ages 5-11 in the county have received their first dose of the vaccine. She said local health entities are now in the second week of vaccinating those ages 5-11.

She said the health department vaccinated more than 200 kids last week in its own clinics. She said UnityPoint health has done close to 200 vaccinations in their clinics and 160 in the Peoria Public Schools district.

Sarah Overton, Chief Nursing Officer at OSF HealthCare, said OSF HealthCare was able to administer more than 1,000 first dose vaccinations to kids last week. She gave some statistics on why it’s important to vaccinate the younger population.

“Over 8,300 children actually have been hospitalized throughout the country overall with COVID,” Overton said. “Although it’s not always such a negative outcome for those patients, they are also spreaders of the illness, as well as there have been over 94 patients that were between this age group that resulted in a death overall.”

Overton said COVID-19 is now in the top 10 of potential deaths for this age group.

Hendrickson said the virus can also have long-term effects on children.

“Even kids that are asymptomatic or symptomatic that don’t need to be hospitalized will still have long-term impacts related to COVID,” Hendrickson said. “And so again, we’re talking continuous fatigue, unable to focus, respiratory distress.”

She encouraged parents to speak with their pediatricians and family doctors about remaining questions regarding the vaccine and their children.

Overton said OSF is having another vaccine event at its Knoxville location Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Hendrickson also said the health department is administering vaccines Tuesday and Thursday nights from 3 p.m. to 7 pm.

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