East Peoria moves into Phase 3 of Tri-County Reopening Plan

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EAST PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — The City of East Peoria is continuing on with the Tri-County Reopening Plan.

“I think the vast majority of people, they’re ready,” said East Peoria Mayor John Kahl.

On July 1, the City entered Phase 3. This plan allows East Peoria businesses who have been hit hard by the Coronavirus pandemic to now be able to get back to business.

Some businesses involved are funeral homes, wedding venues, athletic facilities, and large entertainment venues.

You can find all of the specific changes below.

East Peoria Mayor John Kahl says this plan was based off scientific statistics among the general well-being of his residents.

“The fear has been instilled in a lot of people about this disease. We’ve sat back throughout this entire process and we’ve watched the metrics. Everything from the positivity rate to the hospitalizations,” Kahl said.

Adding the decision to move on with reopening, has been met with a positive response by the majority of people.

He hopes by giving people the chance to live a more ‘normal’ life, their overall quality of life will improve.

“There was a couple of families that weren’t able to have a public service, we’re getting those scheduled,” said Gary Deiters, owner of Gary Deiters Funeral Home and Cremation Service in East Peoria.

Deiters says his business gets cleaned almost daily, makes it to where visitors don’t have to touch anything like door handles, pens, or books. Deiters has it setup where seating is socially distant.

“We’re not gonna tell people what to do, but we’re going to allow them and set it up to where they don’t have to be exposed. But if they choose to, you can choose who you hug,” Deiters said.

Mayor Kahl says this plan is different than Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s plan, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less safe.

“I don’t think the government really needs to step on toes and tells people how to live their lives. I think people are smart enough and responsible enough to handle it themselves,” Kahl said. “Under the Governor’s plan, for example, it limits people to crowds of 50, if you will. To give you an example, we had a car show where the cars were spread out. There will well more than 50 people when you looked at it collectively, but when you came down here and you saw how everything was spread out. Ya know, people are responsible.”

You can find all the guidelines to Gov. Pritzker’s Restore Illinois plan here.

Kahl says the Tri-County plan has been based off scientific statistics, like the COVID-19 positvity rate and the number of hospitalizations in the area.

“Here, Tazewell County we’re at 1 percent positivity rate as the testing has increased substantially. So it’s not like we had some rogue plan that didn’t have metrics behind it to measure everything,” Kahl said.

Chief Medical Officer of UnityPoint Peoria Region says it’s hard to say whose plan is “better.”

“It is important to take into account that local situations are very different than state-wide situations,” Dr. Sader said. “The political leadership, economic leadership, may view the risk levels differently, it is our job to give the medical side of information of what they’re able to handle from a hospital-capacity standpoint to the health department and political leadership.”

He says the Tri-County area is in a good place right now to handle the pandemic.

“It is night and day how capable we are to managing patients with COVID compared to the first 4-6 weeks to what we can do now,” Dr. Sader said. “We are lucky we have two large healthcare systems with a large capacity for ICU care, beds, and total hospital beds between the three UnityPoint Health hospitals and OSF St. Francis. That doesn’t mean we don’t follow the guidelines that are required in the sense that we don’t want to test our capacity. So if we can follow the physical distancing, the masking, and be as logical as possible about how you go about your daily in life. Taking into account, we really don’t want to expose people at risk who would eat up into the capacity that we are blessed to have.”

Mayor Kahl says the decision to move on with reopening has been met with a positive response with the majority of people.

He hopes by giving people the chance to live a more ‘normal’ life, their overall quality of life will improve.

“I think it does the spirit good. I think physically, from a mental health and physical health standpoint, people need to get out and need to have activities. I think people have been very appreciative of what we’ve done here, and I think it shows,” Kahl said.

The Tazewell County Health Department says they support the Governor’s Restore Illinois Plan.

Mayor Kahl says he understands and respects their decision, but he also believes things are much different in East Peoria than they are in large cities like Chicago.

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