PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — COVID-19 cases continue to rise across Central Illinois after the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, and the Illinois Department of Public Health is warning residents that cases may rise again if precautions aren’t taken ahead of the winter holidays.

According to a press release Friday, IDPH is reporting 21,404 new confirmed and probably cases of COVID-19 in the past seven days. There have been 56 COVID-19 deaths in the same time frame.

As case numbers increase, IDPH reported that the CDC has elevated 74 counties in Illinois to either medium or high levels of COVID-19, up from 63 counties last week and 46 the week before. This week, 29 counties are at a high community level and 45 are at a medium level.

Central Illinois counties at a high community level include Knox, Fulton, Peoria, Tazewell, Logan, Marshall, Mason, and Warren counties.

From the Illinois Department of Public Health

“Illinois is experiencing a significant rise in communities at elevated risk levels for COVID-19, including 29 counties at a high risk,” said IDPH Director Dr. Sameer Vohra. “These elevated COVID-19 community levels, along with rising flu levels, are leading to a surge of respiratory infections and increased hospitalizations. I recommend all Illinoisians – and especially those most vulnerable including young children and individuals over 65 – take all preventative steps to protect themselves, their families and friends.”

In counties at the medium community level, such as Ford, Woodford, and McLean, elderly or immunocompromised people at risk of severe outcomes are advised to wear a mask in indoor public places. They should also get up to date on COVID-19 vaccines or get their bivalent booster, if eligible.

The CDC recommends the following measures for people in areas that are rated at high community level for COVID-19 transmission, including Knox, Fulton, Peoria, Tazewell, Logan, Marshall, Mason, and Warren counties:

  • Wear a well-fitting mask indoors in public, regardless of vaccination status (including in K-12 schools and other indoor community settings)
  • If you are immunocompromised or high risk for severe disease: Wear a mask or respirator that provides you with greater protection, consider avoiding non-essential indoor activities in public where you could be exposed, talk to your healthcare provider about whether you need to take other precautions, have a plan for rapid testing if needed (e.g., having home tests or access to testing), and talk to your healthcare provider about whether you are a candidate for treatments like oral antivirals, and monoclonal antibodies
  • If you have household or social contact with someone at high risk for severe disease: Consider self-testing to detect infection before contact and consider wearing a mask when indoors with them
  • Stay up to date with COVID-19 vaccines and boosters
  • Maintain improved ventilation throughout indoor spaces when possible
  • Follow CDC recommendations for isolation and quarantine, including getting tested if you are exposed to COVID-19 or have symptoms of COVID-19

“Preventative measures include COVID-19 testing, especially if visiting someone at risk for severe disease; enhanced ventilation; good hand hygiene; staying home and seeking treatment if sick; and getting up to date with the COVID-19 bivalent booster and the flu shot,” Dr. Vohra said. “A high-quality mask or respirator is also recommended and will protect you from COVID-19, the flu and other respiratory viruses. Our hope is for Illinoisians across our state to have a happy and healthy holiday season.”

Dr. Vohra also noted that those who test positive for COVID-19 should immediately contact their healthcare provider to discuss whether they need treatment with one of the effective antiviral medications, Paxlovid, Lagverio and Remdesivir. All of these have been found to work against the current strains of the virus.

Through Project ACT, IDPH will be distributing one million at-home antigen tests to 200,000 Illinois families in zip codes outside the City of Chicago that are rated high on a Social Vulnerability Index (SVI). Households can find out if they are in an eligible zip code and request one package of five tests on a first-come-first-serve basis at the Project ACT website. The tests will be delivered to the home address.

Free or low cost COVID-19 testing locations are also available throughout the state, including in Chicago, and can be found on the IDPH website’s testing locator page.