PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) —  COVID-19 cases continue to drop in the Tri-County area.

Local health leaders said infections are on a steady decline.

Monica Hendrickson, Peoria City/County Public Health Administrator, said the area is starting to see the other side of the virus surge.

She said the Tri-County area is averaging 162 cases daily, compared to 284 cases the previous week. Hendrickson also said Peoria County is averaging 74 daily cases compared to 135 a week prior.

“Our region which is Region 2 continues to move closer and closer to be over that 20% capacity in terms of ICU beds available,” Hendrickson said. “This is not only a relief to our healthcare providers but to the general public, ourselves, recognizing the fact that as we’ve seen improvements in our hospitalizations, our ability to access the services and the quality of services continues to be something that we expect and meet.”

This newfound trend in the “right direction” is also coming at a time when the state’s mask mandate is expected to change. On Wednesday, Gov. JB Pritzker announced the state will be lifting the mask mandate for the public on Feb. 28.

Hendrickson said this is a dynamic situation that will require patience, compassion, tolerance, and pivoting.

“The keyword is ‘pivot’, it’s a dynamic word,” Hendrickson said. “It means that you can shift your weight at any time, and that’s what we need to be able to do and recognize. There may be a time where we have to shift to a stronger mitigation, but at the same time we’re at a point where we can start shifting towards less mitigation.”

She also said the health department and local hospitals have started pre-ordering vaccines for kids under the age of 5.

Alice Driscoll, Regional Director of Pharmacy at UnityPoint Health, said Pfizer has already submitted Emergency Use Authorization for its vaccine for this age range. She said it’s taken longer to get a vaccine for this age group because of the way children’s immune system grows

“16-month-olds immune system is different than a 16-year-old’s immune system, so the company’s had to get it right in terms of the doses that would be both efficacious and tolerable for this population as well as safe,” Driscoll said.

She said the proposed dose for this population would be 3 micrograms and would possibly be a part of a three-dose series.

Driscoll said the FDA is expected to review this data on Feb. 15 to determine if the vaccine should receive approval and if so, the CDC will follow suit.

Hendrickson said the health department’s vaccine clinic will return to ‘appointment-only’ on Feb. 28.