Increasing local COVID-19 cases linked to high-risk school sports, St. Patrick’s Day exposures

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PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Rising COVID-19 cases in the tri-county area are leading local health officials to issue warnings about getting complacent.

During Thursday’s weekly press conference at the Peoria City/County Health Department, officials said the declining trend in cases seen in previous weeks now seems to be going in the opposite direction with the 7-day rolling average for new COVID-19 cases increasing from 82 to 114.

Monica Hendrickson, Public Health Administrator for the Peoria City/County Health Department, said the recent increase is linked to the younger population. She said 40% of rising cases in the past two weeks come from people ages 10-29.

“The total number of cases since the beginning of March has been 276 for those individuals ages 0 to 19,” Hendrickson said.

She also said contact tracing shows the recent uptick is attributed to high-risk school sports and St. Patrick’s day exposures. Hendrickson specially cited sports such as football, volleyball, and basketball.

She wouldn’t say whether or not she believes high-risk school sports should be temporarily discontinued but said she recommends parents talk to their children about the risks associated with participating in these sports.

“Acknowledging the fact that when you take on these sports, you take on that full risk and so it’s going to be decisions between school boards and their AD’s and those parents and as individuals students, but just really understanding the full risk that you guys are putting forward when you guys are doing these sports,” Hendrickson said.

Hendrickson said she recommends routine testing that some schools have already implemented. She said she’s also been hearing chatter of people planning illegal proms and homecomings and warns about the risks involved with those events.

“I understand the want to have companionship and kind of go back to that normalcy, but we are not there yet,” Hendrickson said. “So, it’s really important to continue that compliance that we ask for because it does give us a fighting chance.”

She said although the vaccine is present in the community and eligibility is expanding now is not the time to let your guard down as the state tries to move towards the Bridge Phase of Illinois’ reopening plan. She said this phase looks at six different indicators.

“Vaccination among 65 and older, ICU capacity, new hospital admissions, daily mortality, overall hospitalizations, and a daily case count,” Hendrickson said. “In some of these areas we are trending well and in others, we’re actually trending backward.”

Hendrickson said the positivity rate amongst the older population is actually going down. She said in the past two weeks, people 60-years-old and older only contributed to 8% of positive COVID-19 cases and said this shows the vaccines are working.

She said the tri-county area would be getting a limited allotment of the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine next week that would be targeting the homeless population.

“Because it’s a one-dose vaccine, one of the key populations that we’re looking to get this Johnson & Johnson to is going to be our transient populations,” Hendrickson said. “Because when we are able to interact with them we want to be able to provide them with immediate protection with that vaccine.”

She also said the by the end of this week the health department would have given out 10,000-second doses of the vaccine.

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