WATCH: Pritzker, local officials address COVID-19 status in Peoria

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Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker

PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Gov. J.B. Pritzker and local leaders Thursday gave COVID-19 recommendations to Peoria residents and gave a clear warning of what could happen if those recommendations go unheard.

Visiting the Peoria City/County Health Department (PCCHD), Pritzker said proactive restrictions are on the table if Peoria’s COVID-19 status gets worse.

“I know that these choices are difficult,” Pritzker said. “Oftentimes, it’s a choice between something bad and something worse. But I also know that local action can be much more surgical, like in Sangamon County, which is stepping up to more proactively enforce bar and restaurant capacity limits. Taking early action will protect community health and save jobs in the long run, and just as importantly, each of us has to take responsibility too.”

Pritzker also reminded residents that if they get a phone call from PCCHD, they should pick up the phone. He said this would help the state more effectively contact trace, which could also reduce the spread of the virus.

Public Health Administrator Monica Hendrickson said PCCHD has been monitoring the community closely and has seen the positivity rate double in the last two weeks, averaging around 33 new cases in the county each day.

“I issued a health advisory, which not only outlined what our data was showing, the high-risk groups of 20-29 year-olds, the large gatherings, and precautions in regards to social distancing and face coverings not being followed,” Hendrickson said.

“It also included what we needed to do to change our trajectory as a community. This response has shown four things. The first is that this virus, as it is novel, it is an equal-opportunity virus, and without a vaccine or extensive medical treatment, we are going to be relying on our first and best defense, and that is social distancing and face coverings.”

State Sen. Dave Koehler (D-Peoria) emphasized the need to properly wear a mask and said wearing the mask improperly would not help prevent the spread of the virus.

“People have to learn how to wear a mask,” Koehler said, pulling the mask up to his chin. “This is not wearing a mask, and you see it all over the place. I hear more and more comments about this from the pubic, you gotta put this up over your nose.”

He said he met with two businesses Wednesday who told him they require customers to wear masks in their establishment. They told him their employees were “brutalized” by individuals who said it was their right not to wear a mask.

State Rep. Ryan Spain (R-Peoria) said he came to represent bipartisanship on the issue of COVID-19 in the state.

“Public health is not a partisan issue,” Spain said.

“Even though this is an election year, this is not a time for Democrats and Republicans to do battle against each other on the topic of public health. We need to take this very seriously. We need to listen to the advice and recommendations of our public health officials. We need to wear our face coverings, keep our social distance, and avoid large gatherings.”

Mayor Jim Ardis echoed the statements of other local officials.

“At the end of the day it’s really simple,” Ardis said. “We are on the verge of stepping back, and that is not what we need. Our businesses need to be open. They need more business. Taking a step [back] right now is very likely to be the end of a lot of our small businesses. They can’t take it.”

Ardis said if residents see someone not wearing a mask in public, they should speak up and say something, so long as they aren’t being rude about it.

“People need to know how serious this is,” Ardis said. “The governor is not here to issue a threat. It’s reality. It’s the metrics. If the numbers put us in a bad spot, we are going to go back.”

This story will be updated as more information becomes available.

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