Local health leaders urge public to get vaccinated to move into Phase 5 as hospitalizations increase

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PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — The tri-county area saw a slight dip in active COVID-19 cases this week, but the area’s health leaders are still driving the need for the public to get vaccinated.

During Thursday’s weekly press conference at the Peoria City/County Health Department, Monica Hendrickson, public health administrator, said the tri-county area is now averaging 200 positive COVID-19 cases daily compared to 269 last week.

Hendrickson also said open ICU capacity for the area’s hospitals dropped to 17% this week, however, she said the area is still nowhere near where it needs to be.

“I’ve often come here and spoke about the importance of getting vaccinated for yourself, for your loved ones, your co-workers, and your community,” Hendrickson said. “But I also want to take time today to highlight that we really need to get vaccinated to move forward especially into Phase 5.”

She said the tri-county area is currently 30% fully vaccinated and is on the verge of 40% as more people are scheduled to get their second doses, but she said it needs to be at 50% to move into Phase 5 of Governor J.B. Pritzker’s Restore Illinois Plan.

“We’re starting to see communities plateau,” Hendrickson said. “If we really want to help our community and our businesses get back to normal and to the capacities that we want to enjoy, we have to all get vaccinated.”

Hendrickson said there is no excuse to not get vaccinated, saying ‘there are appointments everywhere.’ She said complacency and vaccine hesitancy may still hold people back.

“People are under this assumption that ‘well at least those that are high-risk are getting vaccinated so now we can take a deep breath and, you know, be more relaxed and more complacent’,” Hendrickson said. “And with that, we saw our cases increase and now our hospitalizations increased and our deaths are starting to increase”

She said demand for the first dose of the vaccine is also dwindling which could result in vaccines being wasted.

Dr. Douglas Kasper, an infectious disease specialist with the University of Illinois College of Medicine Peoria, said they’re seeing younger patients being admitted to the hospital and the majority of hospitalizations are people who are either half vaccinated or not vaccinated at all.

He said although the tri-county area needs to be 50% fully vaccinated to move into Phase 5, he encourages anyone eligible to get the shot. He also reminded the public that immunity takes time.

“The vaccines do not work immediately, there is a period of weeks, typically 2-4 weeks, after completing the vaccine series for immunity to build and become protective to yourself and to prevent you from transmitting [the] virus to others if you were exposed,” Kasper said.

Hendrickson also said the health department will have more vaccine clinics coming to locations where vaccination rates are low.

“We do have a Guard Unit that has taken over the operations of our Heddington Oaks site for us to start transitioning out of Heddington Oaks and into the community more,” Hendrickson said.”

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