Local health leaders say COVID-19 cases surging in younger population, urge all eligible to get vaccinated

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PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Tri-county health officials are reiterating the backward trend for positive COVID-19 cases in the area, saying the surging infections are climbing in the younger population.

During Thursday’s weekly health press conference, Monica Hendrickson, Public Health Administrator, said 40% of active cases come from those under the age of 30.

“The majority of our cases are sitting in a younger age population that being the 0-19-year old population,” Hendrickson said.

Hendrickson said, using contact tracing, many of these cases are related to activities outside of the daily school setting such as sports teams, dance academies, group dinners, travel, and family get-togethers.

She said schools are doing a good job following safety protocols and she believes sports can still be played in a safe manner, but said the public should still avoid congregating in large gatherings.

“The biggest thing to understand is not everyone is vaccinated yet and in fact, not everyone can be vaccinated,” Hendrickson said.

Hendrickson is urging against complacency and said the public shouldn’t view vaccination distribution as a way to stop following safety guidelines.

“We all see now what vaccination looks like, there’s this silver lining this hope that we have, but again this is not a time to let our guard down and our numbers are showing that,” Hendrickson said.

Dr. Randy McCrea, an internal medicine and pediatrics specialist with OSF HealthCare, discussed the importance of vaccinating the younger population and

“16 and 17-year-olds are coming into the last years of their high school career, they deserve that option to experience that fully,” McCrea said. “We hope additionally adding the 16 and 17-year-old group, they will respond to this very positively, and get out and get vaccinated to get us back to as close as normal.”

He said 16 and 17-year-olds need parents’ permission before getting the vaccine, and that fear has stopped some individuals from getting the shot. McCrea said the younger population has been shown to respond well to the vaccine and Hendrickson said they don’t get any worse side effects than the older population.

Hendrickson also said with the if mitigation were to return, they wouldn’t be as strict as before.

“I think there’s going to be the possibility for mitigations, what they look like might be different because again now we’re sitting in a landscape, we’re sitting at a landscape where the vaccine is available,” Hendrickson said. “So we want to make sure our mitigations prior were in a scenario where we did not vaccine or we did not have a vaccine that was readily available. Those two things are now changing as we speak.”

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