Local health officials monitoring COVID-19 for the holidays, enforcing mitigations

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PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — As Thanksgiving approaches, local health officials are still concerned about increasing COVID-19 cases in the tri-county area. They said there hasn’t been much progression is slowing the spread of the virus in the area.

Monica Hendrickson, Public Health Administrator, said the tri-county area has had an increase of 2,563 new COVID-19 cases since last Tuesday and the area is averaging 366 new cases daily.

She also said the tri-county area had five deaths in the last 24 hours and 46 ICU beds are in use. She said the staff at local hospitals are being vigilant of their resources and preparing for a possible holiday surge.

“Our hospital systems here monitor their ICU and their bed surge, their staffing, and even their supplies on an hourly basis,” Hendrickson said. “They’re very much concerned, they’re preparing, they’re monitoring and they’re adjusting their own schedules on a day-to-day basis to make sure able to meet those requirements.”

Hendrickson said a big part of slowing the spread requires compliance of Illinois’ Tier Three Mitigations on all parts. She said the Peoria City/County Health Department has been getting questions about enforcing those mitigations as some businesses refuse to comply.

She said enforcement is done on a complaint basis and the department receives those complaints through the Restore HOI website. Hendrickson said the complaints are logged and routed to local or state agencies best equipped to handle them.

She said businesses will get education and follow-ups, followed by notices and those who still refuse to comply may face harsher consequences.

“We would go through a first notice and then a second and then eventually working with the State’s Attorney’s office to do a cease and desist,” Hendrickson said. “But I think the key thing to remember is it’s going to be complaint-driven. So, after we’ve done the education and perhaps we don’t hear another complaint for a while, we’re going to assume that it has been addressed.”

Hendrickson said there have been complaints against about 20 businesses and two have had first notices. However, she said the majority of local businesses have been complying with the mitigations and have even been nominated for a COVID-19 excellence award for food establishments.

“That’s impressive to think that there are over 200 individuals that have recognized and brought forward the great work of restaurants in our great community,” Hendrickson said. “We plan to highlight those entities with a winner at the end of the year.”

She said it could take anywhere from 4-28 days after the holidays to get numbers of new COVID-19 cases caused by Thanksgiving traveling and get-togethers.

She said the best ways to lower the risk of spreading the virus during the holidays include wearing a mask, limiting gathering to only those in your household, and practicing good sanitation.

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