CENTRAL ILLINOIS (WMBD) — Two years and four months after the United State’s first confirmed case of coronavirus, the county hit another grim record.
“One million COVID deaths,” President Joe Biden said. “One million empty chairs around the family dinner table.”
Biden made the announcement of the U.S. reporting one million COVID-19-related deaths on Thursday. The president also ordered U.S. flags to fly at half staff to mark the gloomy milestone.
Local health leaders acknowledged the news and emphasized the pandemic is not over.
“I think it’s definitely sad news but also reflective,” Monica Hendrickson, Peoria City/County Public Health Administrator, said.
Hendrickson said while the news of one million U.S. COVID-19-related deaths is a tragedy, she said it shouldn’t provoke fear for the future, especially locally.
“While we are seeing increases in cases, we’re not seeing hospitalizations climb like they did in late December, early January,” Hendrickson said. “Overall, we’re in a good position, but we’ve seen in the past few years things can change that.”
“But I don’t think you’re going to see that type of huge surge with hospitalizations that we had in December.”
Hendrickson said only five Peoria County residents are hospitalized with COVID-19 and the county is averaging anywhere from 50-60 reported COVID cases a day.
She said since at-home COVID-19 test results aren’t reported, the actual number of infections is greater than what’s being reported.
As of Thursday, the Illinois Department of Public Health shows, to date, Peoria County has had 47, 813 COVID infections and 519 death.
It reports Tazewell County’s had 37, 579 infections and 466 deaths. Woodford County was reported at 10,567 COVID infections and 111 deaths.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed both Peoria and McLean Counties were two of 23 Illinois Counties sitting at medium levels for community spread.
At the medium level, the CDC strongly recommends masking in indoor and public places for those who are at the highest risk of sever disease.
Despite this data, Hendriksen said she doesn’t see one specific mitigation, such as the mask mandate, taking over again.
“Layered mitigation is important,” Hendrickson said. “This idea that there’s not one singular thing but various level and in different setting, they work differently.”
“I don’t think you’re going to have something necessarily prescriptive across the board, but there’s going to be a menu of options.”
Marianne Manko, the public affairs coordinator with the McLean County Health Department, said McLean County’s had a total of 369 COVID deaths and has averaged about 14 daily COVID hospitalizations.
She said even post-pandemic people are still going to get COVID. But she said there are tools to help reduce the severity.
“All we have to do is choose to use those tools,” Manko said. “So the best tools we have are vaccination and boosters.”
She said it’s going to take a community effort to help keep the pandemic at bay.
“Never assume that the actions someone is is taking will protect you,” Mako said. “Than pandemic affects all of us and all of us have a role to play.”