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COVID-19 Cases Plateau In Tri-County Region As Delta Variant 'Burns Out'

Monica Hendrickson
Tim Shelley
Peoria City/County Health Department Administrator Monica Hendrickson speaks at a COVID-19 media briefing on July 22, 2021.

The Tri-County area is averaging fewer than 100 new COVID-19 cases a day for the first time in more than two weeks.

"Right now, we are plateauing. And that's good. We want to plateau," said Peoria City/County Health Department Administrator Monica Hendrickson. "We don't want to keep seeing this huge surge we've had."

But while that's a good sign, Hendrickson said numbers aren't necessarily plateauing for a good reason.

"The Delta variant is burning out," Hendrickson said. "That means it's not finding as many hosts because it's making enough people sick."

Hendrickson said anything from holiday weekends to people letting up on mitigations too soon could quickly lead to another reversal.

Meanwhile, the Tri-County region's vaccination rates are still below 50 percent. Hendrickson said the vast majority of people hospitalized for COVID-19 are unvaccinated.

"What can be frustrating to us is that the majority of our cases are people who are eligible for vaccination," she said. "Right now, everyone that is hospitalized for Peoria County residents are eligible for the vaccine."

A UnityPoint Health-Peoria pulmonologist is urging people not yet vaccinated against COVID-19 to get the shot before they end up becoming one of his patients in the ICU.

Dr. Ravi Kashyap said many of his patients are terrified when they come to him with COVID complications.

"Once they come to us, they are requiring high amounts of oxygen, about to go on the breathing machine," Kashyap said. "And I can see the fear in their eyes. Many of them have mentioned that they should have taken the vaccine, but some of them are unable to tell me that."

Kashyap said you are better off if you never end up in the ICU in the first place.

"It's not like you get hospitalized and go home, it's not a big deal," Kashyap said. "No, the truth of it is if you come to an intensive care unit, your chance of survival is less than 50 percent."

Even for those who do leave the hospital, they often end up with debilitating permanent organ damage, such as scarred lungs.

But Kashyap said he also still encounters family members of people in the ICU who, despite what is happening, still say they won't get a COVID-19 vaccine. He said misinformation is circulating widely in the community, and people should talk to their doctors for factual information.

"What I tell my patients, please talk to your doctors. I mean, when the patients come to me or the family comes to me, I said, 'Now you're in front of a doctor, please ask the question. What question I can answer for you? What are your concerns?'"

Kashyap said he thinks giving the right information is more effective in getting people to take the vaccine than pushing it upon people.

"That's the best approach at this time," he said.

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