Tough to see any light at the end of COVID tunnel, say local health leaders

Peoria City/County Health Administrator Monica Hendrickson.
Peoria City/County Health Administrator Monica Hendrickson.(25 News/Heart of Illinois ABC)
Published: Jan. 13, 2022 at 8:07 PM CST
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PEORIA (25 NEWS) - Just over 27% of recent COVID-19 tests came back positive in Peoria this week, where health leaders remain worried about overcrowded hospitals.

Another 21 deaths were reported during the past week, including nine in the last day alone at OSF St. Francis Medical Center and UnityPoint Health Methodist Hospital.

The Tri-Counties of Peoria, Tazewell, and Woodford are averaging 844 new infections per day, a daily average of 382 per day in Peoria County, health agencies reported at Thursday’s weekly briefing.

The closely-watched test positivity rate is above 20% for all three counties, and 27.3% in Peoria County.

Monica Hendrickson, the Peoria City/County health department administrator, said numbers are probably even higher because home tests often go unreported.

“The number you are seeing is, by default right now, an underestimation of the amount of virus we have, said Hendrickson.

So when I say we’re averaging 800, that’s a low number. That’s the bare minimum. We’re definitely much higher than that in our community,” Hendrickson said.

Overcrowded hospitals are another problem, according to Hendrickson, with less than 10% of intensive care unit beds available..

“Our ICU bed capacity remains averaging 45 beds a day. However, our non-ICU bed use continues to grow where we are now averaging 220 beds in use each day,” Hendrickson said.

Meantime, Hendrickson reiterated that contract tracing is being done now at the state level, so local health departments can no longer offer back-to-work or back-to-school letters.

COVID outbreak unleashes another challenge for local businesses

The latest COVID surge is having a profound impact on local businesses because sick people can’t come to work.

Speaking at Thursday’s briefing, Chris Setti, chief executive officer of the Greater Peoria Economic Development Council, said employers have been struggling with staffing shortages for a year.

“And now, what’s happening is that the employees they have are getting sick and not being able to be at work, which is just compounding an already difficult problem,” said Setti.

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