PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — With a nationwide increase in COVID-19 cases, local health experts are concerned this could potentially impact Central Illinois hospitals.

While the national health emergency for COVID-19 has been lifted since April, a new offshoot of the Omicron variant is spreading around the country.

Carle Health’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Samer Sader said new COVID-19 vaccines will hopefully be released sometime this fall, perhaps as early as mid-September. He gave some of the usual talking points surrounding the virus, mainly about keeping those who are at-risk safe.

“Protecting the vulnerable, which we’ve talked about many times, and that includes older people, people with chronic illnesses, people that take medications that lower their immune system, are the people we need to protect the most,” Dr. Sader said.

He went on to say people should avoid interacting with loved ones who are more at-risk to developing severe symptoms if they can. Dr. Sader also said the COVID-19 vaccine is becoming like the flu vaccine, as you should get one every year.

“Each year it’ll be a different variant, and the vaccine will have to be adjusted to the predominant variant,” he said.

Monica Hendrickson, a public health administrator from the Peoria County Health Department, said boosters are not as widely available, and to talk to your healthcare provider or the health department if you have any questions. She also said they hope to see a swell in cases, not a surge.