PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Local health leaders are expressing cautious optimism as COVID-19 cases seem to be slowing down in the Tri-County area.

During a COVID-19 press conference Friday, Monica Hendrickson, Peoria City/County Public Health Administrator, said the area is in a good place in its fight against the virus.

“For the first time in, I would say two years, I feel comfortable going into the grocery store without a mask on,” Hendrickson said.

Hendrickson said the Tri-County area is averaging 24 COVID-19 cases daily and only 13 cases in Peoria County. She said there are currently 104 active cases in the Tri-county area and only six Peoria County residents are in the ICU being treated for the virus.

Hendrickson said this is a good sign.

“Overall in the tri-county, the general population can get back to normalized activities, recognizing that people will have certain risks and that we’ll act accordingly, and we hope you respect their decisions to act accordingly,” Hendrickson said. “From a public health and healthcare standpoint, we’re always going to be on alert. We’re always going to be monitoring and watching surveillance: that’s our job.”

When it comes to people who may have certain risks, both Hendrickson and Dr. Sharjel Ahmand, an Infectious Disease specialist at the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Peoria, discussed a second COVID-19 booster shot.

Dr. Ahmad said four months after getting the first booster, those who are 12-years-old and older would be eligible for the Pfizer booster, those 18-years-old and older would be eligible for the Moderna booster, and those 50-years-old and older would be eligible for both.

He said getting the booster is a decision left up to each individual and they should consider everything when making their decision.

“My message is going to be look at your own history, look at what risk category you fall in, look at your own individual risk, what activities you’re engaging in, and then decide if the second booster is right for you,” Ahmad said.

Dr. Ahmad also said research shows the disease caused by the BA2 subvariant is not likely to be more severe than what’s caused by BA1 in vaccinated people or people who were previously infected with COVID.

He also said there may not be another big surge of BA2.

“Every new variant may cause fewer deaths simply because more people are able to thwart infection and severe disease because of prior vaccinations and natural immunity,” Ahmad.