Health leaders say Tri-county area is ‘trending in the right direction’ leading to Phase 5

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PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Peoria County health officials are reporting positive news regarding the area’s COVID-19 road to recovery.

During Thursday’s, now bi-weekly, COVID-19 health press conference, health leaders said the area is seeing a continuous trend of declining COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations from the virus.

Monica Hendrickson, Public Health Administrator for the Peoria/City-County Health Department, said the area’s weekly COVID cases have dropped to levels that haven’t been seen since last year. She said there’s only been an increase of 86 cases in the past week.

“The last time we saw less than 100 new cases in a few was July 2 of 2020,” Hendrickson said.

As Illinois prepares to move into Phase 5 of Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s Restore Illinois plan Friday, June 11, Hendrickson said the tri-county area is in a good position to follow suit.

“Yesterday, the governor spoke about regarding our move to Phase 5 next week, and based on our case counts as well as our vaccination rates and our hospitalizations, we consider this very much likely for our community as well,” Hendrickson said.

Hendrickson also said vaccination rates are increasing among the younger population, specifically citing those 12-19. but said there’s still a need for continued vaccinations within Peoria County.

She said approximately 40% of Peoria County residents are fully vaccinated, saying there’s a number of reasons why that number isn’t higher at this point.

“I don’t think we have a lot of just nos out there,” Hendrickson said. “I think there is a percentage of the population that’s just ‘I don’t want to get a vaccine at all’ but the majority of the individuals are hesitant and sadly some people are just like ‘Oh, I forgot.”

Chris Setti, CEO of the Greater Peoria Economic Development Council, spoke about both the necessity of vaccinations and how the public should be aware of how their actions can impact the business community going forward.

“It’s really important that people continue to seek out those vaccinations and continue to make good choices when it comes to being in large crowds,” Setti said. “What we would want to obviously happen is for another surge to happen.”

He said entering Phase 5 removes restrictions for some businesses but said many are still facing staffing shortages and the public should offer grace and patience during this time.

“Understand that everybody’s getting back into the swing of things at the same time,” Setti said.

He said as the tri-county area tries to return to a sense of normalcy, everyone will have to make choice on how they proceed according to their own comfort level. He said these choices should be respected.

“Some businesses are still going to require masks, don’t be mad about that,” Setti said. “You don’t have to assert your individuality. The business has the right to demand that you wear a mask if that’s what makes them comfortable.”

“If you’re going into a business that isn’t requiring masks but you feel you should wear a mask, either wear a mask or walk away,” Setti said.

Hendrickson mentioned the Health department does offer walk-ins for vaccinations Monday-Friday from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. She’s encouraging those who haven’t gotten the vaccine to take advantage of the opportunities to do so.

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