Local health leaders say tri-county area COVID-19 cases are plateauing, doctors describe patients’ ICU experiences

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PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — In the wake of the latest fourth wave of the pandemic, local health leaders suggest the current COVID-19 cases in the tri-county are starting to level out.

During Thursday’s weekly COVID-19 press briefing, Monica Hendrickson, Health Administrator with the Peoria City/County Health Department, said the tri-county area’s seven-day average for COVID-19 cases is 95. She said this is the first time in 17 days the area has averaged less than 100 new cases daily.

“Right now, we are plateauing and that’s good,” Hendrickson said. “We want to plateau, we don’t want to keep seeing this huge surge that we’ve had. And again for the past 17 days, we’ve been averaging 100 cases a day which I think is a lot for a tri-county region to have.”

Hendrickson said the area is at the point where as long as people continue to follow safety mitigation, such as the ones in schools and other settings, there should be a downturn in sight. However, she said there’s a lot that can change this direction for the worse.

“Holiday weekends, you know, people getting lax on mitigation that can really spike these numbers at any given time,” Hendrickson said.

She said the group making up the majority of the area’s COVID-19 cases are those younger than 19-years-old. Hendrickson said just over 30% of active cases are in this age range, but she said they’re not contracting the virus in the school setting.

She said the burden typically and unfairly falls on the superintendents, and this should be a priority for everyone.

“For our schools to succeed and have in-person learning, kids need to be following those mitigations, getting vaccinated, across the board,” Hendrickson said. “They’re doing everything they can in the building but when they leave the building, and they go to a dance team or what have you and all mitigations go away, you’re then just bringing it into a school where now they’re quarantining and having to exclude so many students.”

Hendrickson said also said hospitalizations in the area are still up, and they expect to see that trend continue. She said currently there are 23 people in local intensive care units and 71 people hospitalized in non-ICU beds.

Dr. Ravi Kashyap, a pulmonologist and intensivist with UnityPoint Health, described COVID-19 patients’ experience while in the ICU and said he can see the fear in their eyes. He said these patients require a high amount of oxygen, and many tell him they regret not getting the vaccine at this stage.

“In the majority of cases they get intubated, intubation meaning by putting them on a mechanical ventilation – we are breathing for them,” Kashyap said. “Because of the lack of oxygen, many times, a majority of times, we’ll put them on the stomach, a prone positioning because that improves oxygenation. So, 16 hours out of 24 hours, they are in the prone position.”

Kashyap also said because of the lack of oxygen these patients are getting, many experience organ failure.

“It’s not like you get hospitalized and go home, it’s not a big deal. No, the truth of it is if you come in the intensive care unit, your chance of survival is less than 50 percent,” Kashyap said.

Kashyap said even after seeing loved ones in this state, many family members still deny the virus exists and refuse to get it themselves. He said he still tries to encourage people to get the vaccine, but ultimately encourages those who are unsure to talk to their doctors about their concerns.

Hendrickson also acknowledges there is a portion of the population that will choose not to get the vaccine no matter what. But, she did say vaccinations in the tri-county area are slowly starting to rise.

She said COVID-19 testing and vaccines are still available at the Peoria Civic Center on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays.

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